By: Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator
Logs and wood debris are common along U.S. West Coast states and Alaska. This year, however, beachgoers – even in Hawaii – may see a larger amount of logs and milled lumber debris on our coastal beaches, such as small beams and other structural lumber.
It is possible that some of these items are from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan and are just now reaching our shores. Wood typically floats lower in the water and may not move as fast as items like Styrofoam, empty plastic bottles, and floats that have arrived on U.S. shorelines in increased numbers for more than a year.
Handling Wood Debris
Remove wood debris, or leave it in place? In most cases, leave it in place. Unless the wood is treated, or contains a lot of nails and other metal, the wood – an organic material – should stay on the beach, decay, and become part of the ecosystem.
Report wood debris? In most cases, there is no need to report wood. If the item is unusual and you believe that it is Japan tsunami marine debris (see above right photo), report it as you would any other item of particular interest.
What about marine growth on wood debris? Most species on wood debris are not invasive and may be left alone to decay with the wood. For example, many of the tsunami debris items we’ve come across had pelagic gooseneck barnacles attached to them, a common marine organism that is not invasive. Here are a few examples of non-invasive organisms, courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Aquatic invasive species experts have been collecting samples and studying the species found on marine debris, including the Japan tsunami marine debris. For more information on invasive species go to http://www.anstaskforce.gov/Tsunami.html and http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/
In Washington State, you may report any item you suspect may be harboring invasive species to 1-855-WACOAST. Please provide date and time, location (GPS coordinates if available), and general description. For more information, go to http://marinedebris.wa.gov/.