Debris Still Washing Up Shores of Hawaii Two Years After Japan Tsunami

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Though it happened two years ago on March 11, debris are still washing ashore from the Japanese tsunami.

Environmentalists in Hawaii reported that garbage from Japan is still washing up on the beaches two years after the 9.0 earthquake struck the coast of Japan.

Small items like bottle caps, beer crates and food packaging with Japanese writing has been found, as well as large items like refrigerators and fishing boats.

Debris seem to be washing up at a faster rate since October, as tides from 4,000 miles across the ocean slowly bring the remnants back to land.

Volunteers have come together to clear the beaches but they haven’t been able to do much about the damaging effects it has on wildlife.

Assistant Professor of Oceanography, David Hyrenbach, said most of the dead birds he has examined have stomachs full of plastic, after they mistook garbage as food. He recalls opening up the stomach of a dead two-month-old albatross, only to find that it was 80 percent full of plastic.

“Morally, this is terrible. How is this possible? Majestic, far ranging, beautiful birds, in a pristine place of the pacific, the northwest Hawaiian islands, you open them up and this is what you find,” he said.

It’s not only birds being affected, but fish as well. Many fish are swallowing plastic and strands of garbage bags.

It poses a threat to humans as fish that consume plastic will be eaten by larger fish which humans consume.

One beach in particular, Kamilo Beach, has a reputation for attracting the Japanese debris. It is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as tons of plastic debris have washed up due to trade winds and converging ocean currents.

“It’s disheartening to come out here and see all this marine debris in an area that’s otherwise so remote, debris that’s washing up from other countries,” Megan Lamson, debris project coordinator for the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, said.

While debris in the ocean has been a problem for years, Hawaii Wildlife Fund said it has been significantly worse since the tsunami. Japan estimated that 1.5 million tons of debris floated away.