“Marine debris usually travels with currents from Japan to North America. However, through our networks and partnerships we are now able to bring both people and debris in the other direction.” This was the main message Dr. Shigeru Fujieda, from Kagoshima University, delivered in his closing remarks at a public symposium on tsunami debris in Japan.

It was my first time in Japan and I was there as a guest of the Japanese Environmental Action Network witnessing the effects of tsunami debris.

The fishing buoy in the tree shows the height of the wave from the 2011 tsunami.

The fishing buoy in the tree shows the height of the wave from the 2011 tsunami.

The tragedy of the 2011 tsunami had brought representatives from around-the-world together to see and hear about the effects of the tsunami firsthand. Nearly four years after the tsunami, many residents continue to feel the effects as they rebuild homes and grieve for lost loved ones.

We travelled along the Sea of Japan and the Pacific coast attending workshops, public symposiums and visiting some of the hardest hit shorelines. Quickly, we became a close-knit group sharing our stories on how we are each working to clean up tsunami and marine debris from our respective shorelines.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Japanese motorbike and boats that washed ashore in North America? North Pacific gyres carried debris from Japan across the ocean to the shores of British Columbia and the United States. Despite the media attention to these events, items related to the tsunami are a fraction of the marine debris that enters the ocean every day. Litter from land based activities, fishing and shipping dominates the material we find on Pacific beaches.

Tsunami Debris

Working together to reduce marine debris from preventable sources.

Japanese driftage items are the result of a tragic natural disaster and this source of marine debris is not preventable. However, regular marine debris from land based activities, fishing and shipping is completely preventable when appropriate measures are taken. Meeting the survivors of the tsunami confirmed our collective agreement to work together across the ocean to reduce marine debris. One outcome of the 2011 tsunami will be cleaner shorelines and increased awareness of marine debris.

We encourage you to play a role and join the fight for your shoreline. Sign up for our Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup — registration opens February 2015.

Kate Le Souef, tsunami debris cleanup coordinator for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, travelled to Japan to learn more about the impact of tsunami debris. This trip was generously provided by the Japanese Environmental Action Network. Kate will be sharing her experience over the comings weeks.

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