Officials Tracking Suspected Tsunami Debris Boat off Oregon Coast
(Waldport, Oregon) – Scientists and officials are tracking a large chunk of fiberglass just off the Oregon coast that appears to be from a boat, likely part of the tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake of 2011. It has so far included at least one living specimen as well.
Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), said the object is nearly 30 feet long and was spotted today just west of Ona Beach, near Seal Rock and Newport. It's still a few miles offshore, Havel said, and a team of state agencies are preparing to retrieve the debris from the ocean, possibly before midnight tonight, April 9.
Some fish native to Japan's waters have been discovered living on the object, including one still alive. These were a variety of yellowtail jack fish, as well as other sea life that clings to boats and debris.
Biologists from Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center have so far determined these are of a low risk to the ecosystems of the Oregon coast. The group also conferred with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on this.
That same group of biologists will be studying the other fish still onboard the vessel once it has been brought to shore.
“Using funds set aside for responding to tsunami debris, Riverbend Marine Services of Newport will attempt to retrieve the debris today and tow it to the Port of Newport, where port officials immediately offered their cooperation to temporarily store it,” Havel said.
Once it's brought to land, OSU researchers will study it further, and then it will be dismantled and disposed of in a local landfill.
The yellowtail jack fish will find a new home at Oregon Coast Aquarium, where they will presumably be on display for the public. Currently, Seaside Aquarium in Seaside is the only coastal attraction with a fish from the tsunami debris still alive and available for viewing by the public.
The U.S. Coast Guard moved quickly today and has already broadcast a notice to boaters. They also marked it with a life ring and are able to track the debris after placing a data-transmitting buoy on the chunk of fiberglass. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided mapping to predict the location of the object based on sightings.
At least 11 state and federal agencies are coordinating the response. These include Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of State Lands, regon State University, Oregon State Police, Office of the Governor, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA., Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Marine Board and OPRD.
Beach visitors and marine boaters are reminded to be on the lookout for any debris floating at sea. In an emergency, call 911. For less urgent reports, call 211 from any coastal county.
More on Oregon coast tsunami debris. Photos below: other large tsunami debris objects found in recent years.
Living creatures found aboard a tsunami boat - photo Seaside Aquarium
The Tsunami Dock at Newport's Hatfield Marine Science Center
The Tsunami Dock in the surf at Newport, 2012
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