Japan Tsunami – One Year Later

In honor of Japan and the people and towns recovering from the earthquake and tsunami that occurred nearly one year ago, Ocean Conservancy releases the following statement from President and CEO Vikki Spruill.

Media Contact:
Katie Cline, Communications Manager
Telephone: (202) 351-0482

March 8, 2012

Washington, DC - In honor of Japan and the people and towns recovering from the earthquake and tsunami that occurred nearly one year ago, Ocean Conservancy releases the following statement from President and CEO Vikki Spruill:

“This Sunday marks the solemn first anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami – a human, economic and environmental tragedy.  We at Ocean Conservancy commemorate this date by remembering the victims, but also continuing our efforts to research and monitor the environmental aftermath of this unpreventable disaster.    

“To learn more about the debris that resulted from this natural catastrophe, Ocean Conservancy is facilitating dialogue among leading experts.  We invited researchers, industry leaders and media outlets to learn more about the tsunami debris making its way across the Pacific last week in a webinar with Dr. Nikolai Maximenko of the University of Hawaii and Ruth Yender, NOAA’s Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Coordinator. 

“The discussion included updated estimates from Dr. Maximenko, which show 1 to 2 million tons of the debris remains in the ocean.  Of that amount, 95 percent or more will never make landfall, staying in the ocean – either sinking or entering the North Pacific Gyre.  Debris is projected to pass through areas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – home to one of the world’s largest marine conservation areas.  It’s an area that features vast coral reefs, endangered wildlife and more than 7,000 different marine species, a quarter of which are exclusive to the area.  The West Coast could see remaining debris between 2013 and 2014.  The more information and resources dedicated to this issue, the better, and we are encouraged that NOAA researchers are currently exploring ways to further update models.

“Members of our staff are contributing to research and monitoring efforts, as well.  This summer, Ocean Conservancy’s Conservation Biologist and Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos will take part in an expedition traveling from Tokyo to Maui along the projected path of the tsunami debris in hopes of learning more about its size and composition.  Since the debris is a smart part of the larger issue of ocean trash, researchers on the 5Gyres/Algalita Japanese Tsunami Expedition will also be studying plastic pollution as they pass through the North Pacific Gyre.

“Ocean Conservancy is working with local partners on the ground in Japan, like the Japan Environmental Action Network (JEAN), as cleanup continues.  While in Japan prior to the expedition, Mallos will take part in a cleanup, as well.  To learn more about JEAN, please visit

“While the tsunami and resulting debris was unavoidable, the larger issue of ocean trash is preventable.  Ocean Conservancy has a vision for Trash Free Seas®, which includes building an Alliance of industry, science and conservation leaders committed to reduce waste, hosting the International Coastal Cleanup® and supporting a working group at the world’s leading ecological think tank, NCEAS, The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, to identify the scope and impact of marine debris on ocean ecosystems.

“Everyone can help contribute to Trash Free Seas – whether it’s participating in the International Coastal Cleanup or limiting single-use, disposable items.  We can take action to stop trash at its source.  It’s the only way to make our ocean more resilient for when unthinkable, unpreventable disasters, such as the Japan tsunami, occur.” 

Ocean Conservancy is working with you to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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