NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

How to Handle Wood Debris

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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/.

Please continue to report items that you believe are related to the Japan tsunami to disasterdebris@noaa.gov or check out all of the sightings reported to NOAA.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

3 thoughts on “How to Handle Wood Debris

  1. well the wood is still coming to moclips I guess that’s what I have here in my yard collected moclips beach entrance..onward I guess VR lee pickett

  2. Pingback: Will 2013 Be “The Summer of Tsunami Debris”? June 2013 | Beth Cataldo

  3. We saw that some wooden debris that washed up on the beach between Long Beach and Seaview had turned out to be part of a Shinto Shrine. Somebody snatched it up pretty quick, thinking it might be valuable to someone else, but no body is treating the risk of radioactivity seriously. Cuirrently, over 400 metric tons of highly contaminated radioactive water is being sluiced out of the Daiichi reactor sub tunnels each day. The long term effect is very diffficult to ascertain due to the fact that this particular scenario has never happened before. Radioactive decay rates in seawater are not nearly as rapid as previously thought and a good deal of the ocean areas around the disaster location will be a dead zone for many decades. It could also reach the continental United States in concentrations high enough to cause serious health problems for those who eat locally caught seafood. This is terribly underreported, so use your head and think about what washes up on local beaches all along the west coast.

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