Yesterday, we had a personal reminder of the impact of the tragic Tohoku tsunami right here at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre. On March 11, 2011, Mr. Sasaki lost his fishing boat to the tsunami near Ofunato, Japan. Mr. Sasaki survived because his town was high above the ocean but residents of surrounding towns were not so lucky. The powerful tsunami tore through low lying areas, destroying property and devastating entire communities.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Mr. Sasaki’s boat washed up near the Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, B.C. Miraculously, the boat was in working condition, so the lodge began to use the boat for bear watching tours. A Japanese visitor to the lodge became curious about the boat and tracked down Mr. Sasaki. Although Mr. Sasaki has since replaced his boat, which was handed down to him from his father, he decided to travel to B.C. to see his boat one last time.

On his way to Klemtu this week, Mr. Sasaki stopped by the Vancouver Aquarium, where we showed him our tsunami debris exhibit. Mr. Sasaki pored over all the Japanese items we have found on our beaches. We explained that items from the tsunami are just a small fraction of the litter that we find on our shorelines here in North America. We talked about our cleanup efforts on remote coastlines, which require helicopters and boats. Mr. Sasaki thanked cleanup groups for helping to remove Japanese items from the shorelines of B.C.

But it was when Mr. Sasaki turned to the panel on the wall that his face just lit up. He couldn’t believe his eyes, as he pointed at a blue basket with some Japanese characters, and explained that the characters represented the name of a fisherman, and more to the point, Mr. Sasaki knew this man! Of all the Japanese items that artist Pete Clarkson could have displayed in this exhibit, he happened to have chosen one that belonged to a man who Mr. Sasaki knew. If you’re ever looking for proof that we are all connected, you could see it in his face at this moment of realization.

Ms. Sasaki recognized items from the Aquarium’s tsunami debris exhibit!

Tsunami debris exhibit at Vancouver Aquarium

Ms. Sasaki recognized items from the Aquarium’s tsunami debris exhibit!

Mr. Sasaki heads to Klemtu today to have one final ride in his boat. We showed him our Bella Bella exhibit so he could see the underwater world where his boat was found. He told us he was happy that the boat had found a home there at the lodge. I imagine he’ll feel a world away from Japan when he arrives in Klemtu, a tiny and remote community, but when he sees that boat, I think it will be like greeting a family member.

The Japanese tsunami was a tragedy that killed thousands of people. Debris from the tsunami is a reminder of that tragedy and this debris is not preventable, but everyday garbage in our oceans is. You can help. Coordinate a shoreline cleanup now by visiting

Tsunami debris cleanups done by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre have been made possible by the generous contribution from the Government of Japan and its people and supported by the Province of British Columbia, Ministry of Environment and the Government of Canada. Tsunami debris cleanups are part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, a joint initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF-Canada, supported by Ricoh Canada and YVR.

Blog post by Kate Le Souef, manager of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

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One Response

  1. andrea

    What a great, heartwarming story!!!! A double story really that Mr.Sasaki can retell to the man he knows in Japan!! Thanks to you all at Van Aquarium!!!


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