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More Japanese debris found on Island

Dec 29 2011

The amount of Japanese debris on West Coast beaches is increasing and Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk has little doubt that it is the result of the tsunami that ravaged northern Japan in March.

“I’ve lived here close to four years and most of the time I see absolutely no litter on our beaches,” Schmunk said Wednesday.

“On Dec. 18, I went for a walk with my family in Schooner Cove and I probably saw more [litter] in 10 minutes than I’ve seen in four years.”

In the past, Schmunk would see a random item of trash, but on that day he saw groupings. Among the items was a toothbrush embossed with Japanese writing and a single sock.

“It can’t be guaranteed [to be from the tsunami], but the incidence continues to increase,” Schmunk said. “Whether it is or isn’t, it’s a wake-up call for us being prepared for what could happen.” In September, a minor earthquake occurred near Tofino.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer based in Washington state, said since September he has received a dozen reports from beachcombers of Japanese debris coming ashore.

Schmunk welcomed news that Emergency Management B.C. plans to set up a task force to deal with the debris and hopes it will provide guidance on what should happen to the items coming ashore.

While he wants to see Tofino’s beaches clean, Schmunk said care must be taken when dealing with the treasures and the trash heading this way.

“I’ve seen a Google map being started, mapping the debris,” he said.

“I think there should be some vehicle in place so [Japanese] people can potentially reconnect with stuff of sentimental value, should that come ashore.”

There are volunteer organizations in the community beachcombing for items, he said.

“In the event the volume gets much greater, there’s a real chance we’ll need help to deal with it.”

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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