While strolling near the high tide line on Birch Bay Beach, Birch Bay resident Kevin Swiss found what might be a piece of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Swiss found the plastic shrimp wrapper just south of Jacob’s Landing in a patch of dead eelgrass on August 3. It was in the morning, the tide was out, and Swiss could tell right away the wrapper came from Japan. He speaks Japanese, and can read a little as well. He recognized a few characters that are specific to the language.
“It definitely came from Japan,” he said, “but I can’t guarantee that someone who was visiting Birch Bay didn’t just leave the wrapper on the beach.”
The company that packages the shrimp, Bankaku, is a Japanese company that doesn’t distribute in North America.
Swiss emailed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which catalogs tsunami debris sightings in a database to monitor the flow of debris.
NOAA’s Disaster Debris Tracker Team replied with information about the debris-monitoring process, thanked Swiss for his submission and asked for permission to use the photo of the plastic wrapper on their website.
The March 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan registered a 9.0 in the Richter scale, and the resulting tsunami killed nearly 16,000 people and injured 6,000 more. It also swept an estimated five million tons of debris into the ocean. It is estimated that 1.5 million tons of the debris remained floating, and has been widely scattered by Pacific winds and currents. Some of it began arriving on North American shores in 2012.
The tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear facility, but radiation experts have stated it is highly unlikely any of the tsunami debris still carries harmful radiation. For more information, or to report tsunami debris findings, visit marinedebris.noaa.gov.