Tsunami debris latest addition to ocean pollution

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A U.S environmental group tracking the debris from last year's Japan tsunami said the floating garbage only highlights the increasing severity of ocean pollution.

Debris from last year's Japan tsunami flow to the U.S.. [File photo]

A California-based Ocean Voyages Institute said they spotted a large quantity of debris off the coasts of Oregon and Washington State while sailing up from San Francisco in their research vessel Kaisai, which dropped anchor in the Vancouver suburb city of Richmond Wednesday.

Institute founder Mary Crowley told media the vessel's crew documented small pieces of a dock and many debris, which are believed to have come from Japan tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The Japanese debris, including four big piers and myriad containers afloat in the Pacific, could take a toll on shipping safety.

Over the years, the Kaisai crew has documented in regular expeditions the "Great Pacific Garbage Patchin," where millions of bits of plastic were brought together by winds and currents, forging a roughly 34-million- square-km swirling vortex between Hawaii and California, known as a "gyre."

"Everyday, all over the Pacific basin, debris is going into the ocean," she said. "We do feel with any kind of emergencies that there should be debris cleanup."

"I don't know if it's possible to clean up all of it... how tragic is it to be destroying our ocean eco-system before we even understand it."

Crowley said the institute is working with U.S. coastguards to study the debris and improve safety measures by informing them of the whereabouts of large debris pieces.

Crowley suggests the governments pay fishermen to collect plastic and build a factory ship in the ocean to recycle the plastic into fuel and energy.

She also said the United Nations should put together an emergency task force of ships "so that there could be ships available that could do cleanup when the debris is right offshore" in case of future disasters, which may put debris in the ocean.

Janine Oros Amon, Kaisai's medical officer, said it's "completely shocking" to see what's floating in the ocean-- buckets, plastic containers and crates, lawn furniture and even car bumpers.

"We are right on the cusp of a world where serious funds are going to be needed to be spent to clean up the ocean," she said.

"We are dependent on it (the ocean). If it becomes polluted it's a dire result for the human race."

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