TRASH FREE SEAS

Ocean Conservancy Joins Japan Tsunami Debris Expedition

Conservation biologist and marine debris specialist, Nicholas Mallos, is joining 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.

Media Contact:
Katie Cline, Communications Manager
Telephone: (202) 351-0482
Email: kcline@oceanconservancy.org

February 29, 2012

Washington, DC – As the anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami approaches, Ocean Conservancy is announcing that conservation biologist and marine debris specialist, Nicholas Mallos, is joining 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.

“This was a tragic event that destroyed towns, took thousands of lives and generated millions of tons of debris.  We have estimates, models and predictions, but what we don’t know is what’s still afloat,” Mallos says. “This research expedition will provide a snapshot of what might show up on our shores.”

The expedition, organized by 5 Gyres Institute, Algalita Marine Research Institute and Pangaea Explorations, is slated to run from approximately May 30 to June 30. 

The research voyage will provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine how ocean trash moves and changes over time, Mallos says, because we know precisely when this tsunami debris entered the ocean environment.

The latest estimates show between 1 to 5 percent of the debris still in the water could make landfall, according to the International Pacific research Center.  Unfortunately that still leaves a vast majority of debris remaining in the ocean.

While the tsunami debris was unpreventable, it’s a small part of the larger problem of ocean trash.  Researchers will be using small-mesh sampling nets that skim the surface of the water to collect samples and learn more about plastic pollution in the north Pacific.  During his time at sea, Mallos will also be keeping an eye out for wildlife like sea turtles, sharks, marine mammals and seabirds.

“Our ocean faces so many challenges that don’t yet have tangible solutions, but ocean trash is human-generated and preventable,” Mallos says. “With little changes in everyday behavior, we can keep trash from reaching the ocean in the first place, and those little changes add up to a big impact over time.”

The expedition is open to anyone 18-years and older, and there are still seats available.  Slated crewmembers include scientists, artists, journalists and environmentalists from around the world.

This effort is part of Ocean Conservancy’s larger 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.

Additional resources:
Read a Q&A with Mallos here.

Ocean Conservancy educates and empowers citizens to take action on behalf of the ocean. From the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico to the halls of Congress, Ocean Conservancy brings people together to find solutions for our water planet. Informed by science, our work guides policy and engages people in protecting the ocean and its wildlife for future generations.

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