By: Nir Barnea, West Coast Regional Coordinator, NOAA Marine Debris Program
When marine debris washes up on easily accessible, sandy beaches, cleanup crews, often dedicated and hardworking local volunteers, go out to the beaches, and while exercising due caution and safety, clean up the beach and dispose of the debris. But not all beaches are easily accessible and amenable to year-round cleanups. The north outer coast of Washington State is rugged, pristine, not easily accessible, and quite a challenge to clean up. In addition, four tribes and three federal agencies manage the coastline in their jurisdictions, and protected natural resources such as birds in US Fish and Wildlife refuges and the Olympic National Park beaches require special protection and consideration.
To best address these important concerns, representatives of the Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah tribes, Washington State and federal agencies convened on September 17th, at La Push on the Quileute Reservation, to discuss how to best address marine debris especially the possibility of large amounts of Japan tsunami marine debris along Washington State’s north outer coast. After a brief presentation on the current marine debris status and the Washington State Marine Debris Response Plan (now available online at: http://marinedebris.wa.gov/docs/responseplan_marinedebris_09182012.pdf ), the attendees discussed specific issues and challenges in their jurisdiction, including the need to coordinate in advance any cleanup in the National Park and on tribal lands, a cost/benefit analysis that has to be done when considering debris removal from refuge land when birds are present, and the challenges involved in removing a large marine debris object from a pristine, difficult to access location.
A number of action items came out of this effective meeting, including two main ones: Simulating a response to marine debris through a table top exercise and drafting an addendum to the Washington State Marine Debris Response Plan on best approaches when addressing marine debris along the state’s north outer coast.