An update to the government's Tsunami Debris Management Plan is now available online at: www.tsunamidebrisbc.ca just in time for the winter storm season along the B.C. coast.
The updated joint federal-provincial plan provides additional information and management protocols including: monitoring and surveillance of debris, collection and disposal of debris, and volunteer engagement.
No single level of government or agency is solely responsible for this situation. Leadership and an effective response by all levels of government, including First Nations and local governments, is needed to address the situation on B.C.'s long and geographically complex coast.
The intent of the update is to engage communities in debris management and mitigate any impact that debris may have on B.C.'s shores in relation to public safety, the environment and the economy. The plan is considered a living document that will continue to be updated with community feedback and in response to the amount and type of debris that arrives in B.C. and the effectiveness of the current management measures in place.
Ministry staff, led by the regional director for tsunami debris, Jonn Braman, has been discussing the updated version with local governments and First Nations over the last month, gathering local knowledge and input. Some of the early concerns centre around the costs associated with recycling and landfilling tsunami debris and the possibility of aquatic invasive species washing ashore along the coast.
First Nations and local governments are being advised to monitor tsunami debris impact to their disposal systems over time and are urged to flag their concerns if they notice an increase beyond what they can reasonably manage. Through these discussions, it has been clarified that tsunami debris management is expected to be a shared cost.
Although there have been no reports to date, an update regarding potential for aquatic invasive species is also underway.
Feedback on these issues, among others, will be incorporated into the next version of the plan. This document is still being reviewed with coastal communities, and any additional input will be incorporated into updates to the document.
As with any storm season, it is difficult to predict when, where, and how much debris will wash ashore in any given area. A recent report from the Government of Japan's Ministry of Environment suggests the majority of the wind-blown floatable debris (styrofoam, empty plastic containers, buoys, etc) has already hit the Pacific Coast and an increase in lumber-related debris may begin arriving now through June 2013. The report is available online at: http://www.env.go.jp/en/headline/headline.php?serial=1880
Marine debris is common on B.C.'s coast, and it takes time to differentiate between tsunami-related debris and normal debris. To date there has been less than 20 pieces of confirmed debris from the tsunami.
Terry Lake, Minister of Environment:
"With the latest update to our Tsunami Debris Management Plan, we are continuing to move forward with a well-prepared, co-ordinated plan that can be adjusted as the situation changes. The arrival of tsunami debris is a unique situation, and we continue to engage with and receive valuable input from those who would be most affected - coastal communities, First Nations, and local governments."
- The anticipated tsunami debris is a result of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, claiming more than 15,000 lives and damaging more than 100,000 buildings.
- The tsunami washed an estimated five million tonnes of debris into the sea. It is estimated that 70 per cent sank off the coast of Japan, leaving approximately 1.5 million tonnes floating in the Pacific Ocean. Since leaving the coast of Japan, it has been widely dispersed by ocean currents and winds. Some of it continues to sink or be trapped in the garbage gyres.
- In March 2012, the governments of B.C., Oregon, Washington and California announced they will collaborate to manage potential tsunami debris that may wash up along the West Coast.
- The Tsunami Debris Coordinating Committee continues to co-ordinate with American Pacific coastal agencies in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and with the Japanese Government on a regular basis. Large collections or objects should be reported through: DisasterDebris@noaa.gov
- If a person sees something on the beach that appears to be a source of pollution or hazardous material, they should contact the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre at 1 800 663-3456.
To see a map of confirmed tsunami debris sightings, please visit: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/debris-map.html
BC Newsroom - Ministry of Environment: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/environment-1
Ministry of Environment: