NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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Help Needed: Have You Seen This Transponder?


By: Nir Barnea and Asma Mahdi

Attention marine debris cleanup crews, beachcombers, beach visitors, and park recreation staff! Your help is needed to find transponders, released by the Tottori University of Environmental Studies (TUES) in Japan, and report such finding with a picture and its location.

As part of an on-going study* to research the movement of marine debris in the North Pacific, researchers at TUES released transponders, shaped like 2-liter orange soda bottles with an antenna, from northern Japan during four phases in June and October 2011, January 2012 and January 2013. This study is particularly relevant to the movement of the debris washed out to sea by the powerful tsunami that struck Japan on, March 11, 2011.

One transponder was found near Arch Cape, Oregon in March 2013, 21 months after it was set adrift. The founders reported it to researchers at TUES, who then asked Dr. Chan to collaborate on the study and contact the anonymous founders to learn more about the circumstances of the findings. Between 24 to 30 months after launch, the transponders’ battery life ends, and they no longer communicate their location. They drift to wherever winds and currents carry them, and the only way to find out where they end up is to physically find them and report their location.

So next time you go to the beach, remember to look for a transponder that looks like an orange soda bottle – but is far from it. However, safety first: Don’t pick up or move any item that could be hazardous or toxic. Call your local authorities.

You can report the transponder finding to Dr. Samuel Chan at the Oregon Sea Grant College program based at Oregon State University (, or to a NOAA Marine Debris Program Regional Coordinator in your region.

For more information on the study, and maps of the transponders tracking, please check The website is primarily in Japanese, but it provides English translations.

*Research on Prevention of Secondary Disaster by Investigation of Drift Routes of Marine Debris Generated from the Tsunami Following the Great East Japan Earthquake

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.

5 thoughts on “Help Needed: Have You Seen This Transponder?

  1. aloha

    just one correct: the name of the university is Tottori University of Environmental Studies. You wrote Tattori.

  2. Pingback: Help Needed: Have You Seen This Transponder? | OEOO Knowledgebase

  3. Pingback: Have you found this drifting GPS transponder? | CSR PRODUCTIONS Entertainment Group, Inc.

  4. Pingback: Japanese tsunami debris transponder sought on Vancouver Island | Lokalee - Trusted Reviews & Ratings On Your Local Business Directory - USA - Canada

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