There is no doubt that all boaters in the Pacific need to be very aware of this serious debris hazard and of course, the environmental impact that comes with it.
At this very moment, up to 25 million tons of debris–occupying an area roughly the size of California–is a on a collision course for the North American west coast.
The floating wreckage, often called flotsam, is a result of the massively destructive, 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck just off the coast of Japan last March.
Peninsula College oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham told the Huffington Post that the wreckage could include virtually anything that floats– portions of houses, boats, ships, furniture, cars and even human remains (athletic shoes can act as flotation devices).
“You’re going to have the flotsam go four places,” Ebbesmeyer explained to the the American Foreign Press. “Some is going to sink, which might be a quarter; some is going to come to North America, which might be a quarter; some is going to come around back to Japan, which might be a quarter, about six years later; some is going to go into the garbage patch, which might be a quarter roughly.”
The first pieces of flotsam began to hit the United States in late 2011; however, a great deal more will likely wash ashore over the course of the next year two years–with the majority starting to land next winter.
The Environmental Protection Agency has begun coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard on an extensive clean-up effort, but the agency admits they’re still largely in the dark about exactly what the scale of that effort will be.
“We don’t know how much is floating, we don’t know how much is buoyant, how much is under the surface, how much has broken up,” EPA Regional Director Jared Blumenfeld told ABC-7 News, “but we do know there is a huge amount of it and stuff that you don’t normally find. Cars, houses, telephone booths, I mean you name it.”
For the complete story, go to www.huffingtonpost.com.