Peninsula Daily News and news sources
NEAH BAY — Debris in the form of barrel-sized fishing-net floats and other items crossing the Pacific after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan have been washing up on the North Olympic Peninsula beaches and elsewhere along the Pacific coast for several weeks.
Now defense authorities in Canada have found the biggest piece of flotsam yet.
A rusty Japanese fishing ship — empty and with no crew aboard — was spotted last week floating off the coast of British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands, north of Vancouver Island and about 300 miles northwest of Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula.
An aircraft crew noticed the 150-foot-long vessel drifting roughly 150 nautical miles off the southern coast of Haida Gwaii — Canada’s new official name for the Queen Charlotte Islands — on Tuesday, the Canada Department of Defence confirmed Friday.
Transport Canada is currently monitoring the ship for marine pollution and to see if it becomes an obstruction to the public right of navigation.
An official Notice to Shipping has been issued by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Among other commercial traffic, giant oil tankers from Valdez, Alaska, traverse the waters en route to refineries on Puget Sound and in California.
On its current trajectory and speed, the ghost ship won’t make landfall for approximately 50 days, the Defence Department said.
In a written statement issued Saturday, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, said with debris from the March 2011 tsunami reaching the West Coast sooner than expected, United States can’t afford to cut funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program.
“This discovery is further proof that the U.S. government needs a comprehensive plan for coordination and response to the tsunami debris,” Cantwell wrote.
“Coastal residents need to know who is in charge of tsunami debris response — and we need clearer answers now.”
Seattle oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbsmeyer has said that chunks of wood and plastic and other pieces of flotsam from the tsunami will continue to show up on Pacific beaches for years or even decades.