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Coastal Residents Still Watchful For Threat Of Floating Debris

OPB | Feb. 16, 2013 4:19 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 18, 2013 3:51 p.m.

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Portland, OR

Over the weekend, coastal preservationists came together to talk about junk that’s washed up on the Northwest Coast.

The Oregon non-profit SOLVE met with members of the Japan Environmental Action Network. The two-day workshop covered continuing tsunami recovery efforts, the origins of coastal debris, and what prevention methods are useful on both sides of the Pacific.

SOLVE’s Briana Goodwin says the environmental threats go beyond large dock and boat fragments.

“What is most concerning are the small pieces of debris,” Goodwin says, “easily confused by wildlife for food. If you’ve seen tiny pieces of white plastic, next to a picture of a fish egg, they look very similar.”

Goodwin says SOLVE is finding more debris than usual on the coast. But it’s not clear if this is tsunami-related.

A large dock dislodged by the tsunami washed up on Oregon's coast over the summer.

A large dock dislodged by the tsunami washed up on Oregon's coast over the summer.

Late Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it had declared a “severe marine debris event” on Washington and Oregon’s coasts.

That means the agency will now put together a clean-up plan, and take a more active role in research and mitigation.

Senator Maria Cantwell, who pressed NOAA for the designation, called it a breakthrough, since the agency has been treating tsunami debris like all the other flotsam washing up on the coast.

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