Trash Free Seas

What to Do if You Find Tsunami Debris

If you are a beach-goer on the West Coast, you are increasingly likely to find tsunami debris. Here are some basic guidelines on what to do.

What to do if You Find Tsunami Debris - Ocean Conservancy has created a field guide of common tsunami debris items West Coast beach-goers could encounter. Click the link below for the full version of the tsunami debris field guide.
Click here to view a full version of Ocean Conservancy's Tsunami Debris Field Guide. 

As debris from the Japan tsunami continues to make its way to the West Coast, beach-goers are increasingly likely to find these debris items washing ashore.

Marine debris specialists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have put together some basic guidelines to help you know what to do if you find tsunami debris on the beach.

Clean it up and report it

If you come across typical marine debris items such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys and Styrofoam, you are encouraged to remove the debris and recycle as much of it as possible. But if you’re not sure what an item is, don’t touch it.

NOAA has asked that marine debris items clearly related to the tsunami be reported via email to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. Some West Coast states have set up toll-free phone numbers for reporting debris as well. In Oregon, you can call 2-1-1; in Washington, you can call 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278)

If you are reporting tsunami debris, share detailed information including:

  • Location
  • Date and time found
  • Photos
  • Relevant descriptions

Avoid potential hazards

Do not touch or attempt to move any potentially hazardous materials like oil drums, gas cans or propane tanks. The same is true for any large debris items such as adrift fishing boats or shipping containers. 

Instead, contact local authorities (a 911 call), your state environmental health agency and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the items with as much information as possible. If the debris could be a hazard to navigation, contact the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Command at 510-437-3701.

Help return personal effects

NOAA is working with local Japan consulates to return items that may have personal or monetary value. If you find items with unique identifiers, names or markings that could be traced back to an individual or group, report the items to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov

In the unlikely event that you see human remains anywhere, do not touch or attempt to move them. Instead, you should contact local authorities (a 911 call) and report what you observed.

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