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06/19/2013

Debris from Japanese tsunami could bring invasive species for years

Dock

A Japanese dock washed up at Agate Beach, Oregon. Photo courtesy of OregonParks and Recreation.  

It may be hard to believe but scientists assure it is true: debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami will continue to wash up on U.S. shores for years. And it will continue to bring invasive species with it.

So far, dozens of such invasive species have showed up on U.S. shores along with debris from Japan.

Organisms attach themselves to debris, which can float in oceans for years sometimes. In 2012, more than a year after the giant tsunami waves pummeled Japan’s coastal cities, a 165-tonne dock washed up on the shores of Agate Beach State park in Newport, Ore. It was from Japan and over 120 species of algae, worms, mussels and shrimps were clinging to its sides.

(Invasive species of fish and aquatic plants can wreck havoc on any eco-system, decimate local fish and take billions of dollars to clean up.)  

“This could go on for years,” said Dr. John Chapman, a researcher with OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Centre and an invasive species expert told Sustainable Business. “We’ve not seen a decline in the debris.”

Things like children’s toys and a motorcycle have washed ashore in B.C. Officials in that province are worried that foreign plants and animals could also land on our shores and have a devastate local ecosystems.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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