A team of five NOAA scientists have kicked off the first NOAA-led survey of Southeast Alaska beaches for Japan tsunami debris, leaving from Ketchikan Friday, June 15, aboard the charter vessel Sumdum.
Over the 10-day cruise, the team will survey specific beaches of southeast Alaska from Dixon Entrance to Cape Spencer, covering approximately 78 kilometers of shoreline across 889 kilometers of outside coast.
“We doubt that the peak of tsunami debris has arrived, so this is a preliminary assessment to get an idea of the scope of what is arriving here right now,” said NOAA’s Jeep Rice from the Auke Bay Lab in Juneau. “We are also keeping a sharp lookout to see if there is anything chemically or physically dangerous that needs immediate action. This scouting trip will help inform future cleanup efforts.”
Rice said other locations further north and west in Alaska will be surveyed later this summer to include a wide swath of Alaska coastline all the way out to Adak. All human-related marine debris will be enumerated and cataloged so scientists can assess their spatial and temporal distribution. Tsunami debris surveys will be conducted periodically throughout the next couple years.
NOAA’s Marine Debris Program provided funding for the survey, which will wrap-up June 24 in Juneau. The NOAA Marine Debris Program asks that members of the public visit their website on the Japanese tsunami marine debris - http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/ - to learn about procedures when they encounter marine debris. If one finds tsunami debris, NOAA asks that it be reported to: DisasterDebris@noaa.gov.
Although this is the first NOAA survey in Alaska specifically for tsunami debris, NOAA has been conducting marine debris surveys along the Alaska coast every 5-10 years since standard survey protocols were developed by Ted Merrell at ABL in the 1970s, meaning the agency has nearly 40-years of data on marine debris in Southeast Alaska.
Auke Bay Lab’s Jacek Maselko, the chief scientist for the survey, is leading a team that also includes Mark Hoover from ABL, Jason Rolfe from the NOAA Marine Debris Division, NOAA contractor Marty Myers from Juneau and University of Alaska student Derek Chamberlin.