Apparently the Japanese strongly believe in cleaning up after themselves, as 70 students have funded their own trip to Vancouver Island to clean up the shores of B.C.’s coast.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck northern Japan. The tsunami that followed washed an estimated 20 to 25 million tons of debris into the sea. While much of it sank, a substantial amount washed up on B.C. shores, including a motorcycle, storage tanks, fishing boats and myriad of smaller items. Through the efforts of Japanese students and the generosity of the people of Vancouver, the “Japan Love Project” was able to raise $320,000 towards relief efforts.
Fast forward nearly three years later, and you have the upcoming anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, with more debris expected to surface. Now, the International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) have amassed a team to travel to Vancouver to help remedy the driftage that continues to wash up. The District of Ucluelet is also working with international and local partners to collect data, assess the debris, and reduce possible impacts to natural resources and coastal communities.
The District of Ucluelet’s Environmental and Emergency Service Department Manager, Karla Robison:
“I think the large participation effort is a reflection of the honourable spirit of the people from Japan. The community of Ucluelet is very grateful for the support the Japanese Government and Japanese people have provided with debris cleanup initiatives. This gesture serves as a legacy to an enduring friendship between Japan and Canada.”
Robison, who provided details in the Ministry of Environment’s news release regarding awarded funding for the Ucluelet & Barkley Sound Shoreline Cleanup Program, went on to say that people continue to show great support for the cleanup program. “People are very interested in tsunami debris…Marine debris shows how we are all connected on this planet,” outlined Robison. “Tsunami debris is also a reminder to the folks in this area to be prepared for an earthquake and tsunami, as the Pacific Coasts is the most earthquake-prone region in Canada.”
The Japanese students are expected to arrive March 8 and remain until March 12, with a full itinerary listed below. Their goal is to remove 10 tons of debris from the beaches of Vancouver Island, which is still only a small portion of the 1.5 million tons estimated to have been floating in the Pacific Ocean since the disaster in 2011. The District of Ucluelet proposes to conduct shoreline cleanup projects within an approximate 75 km shoreline area from the north end of PRNPR to the south side of Salmon Beach, and an approximate 25 km combined shoreline area within the Broken Island Group.
Keeping in mind that one’s trash is another one’s treasure, even so for junk that has floated across the ocean. The debris will be sifted to determine if any items survived the trip to North America, and can be returned to the rightful owner. Something as simple as a washed up trinket, otherwise mistaken for nothing but garbage, could help bring solace to a struggling family in Japan.
Marine debris remains a long-term ecological issue, with plastics and other anthropogenic materials expected to culminate on B.C.’s shores for years to come.