On October 29th, 2014, the Oregon Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) Task Force met for the last time, reviewed past and present JTMD activities, and disbanded. The end of the Task Force’s service is a good example of how a task force can come together and then dissolve to focus on other pressing regional priorities. It’s also an indication that Japan tsunami marine debris, which was front and center of public and media attention two years ago, has now diminished. JTMD will continue to be researched and studied but it has always been part of the larger and persistent marine debris problem that impacts the world’s oceans.
The “Oregon JTMD Task Force” was established shortly after the floating dock from Misawa, identified as Japan tsunami marine debris, landed on Agate beach, near Newport, Oregon. Task Force members included representatives from state, federal, and local agencies, NGOs and academia. They collaborated closely over the last two and a half years to address JTMD. They drafted the Oregon JTMD Plan and conducted public meetings to introduce it. As funding to address JTMD became available from NOAA and through a generous gift from the Government of Japan, the Task Force put it to good use. The Task Force met periodically to provide updates and discuss JTMD issues, and its members have collaborated to study invasive species found on JTMD, and remove JTMD items, big and small, from the Oregon coast, with the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers.
It is telling that a week prior to the Task Force’s last meeting, a large blue plastic box was found near Lakewood, Oregon, a box that has since been confirmed by the Government of Japan as having washed out from Fudai Village in Iwate Prefecture during the tsunami. More JTMD, mixed with other marine debris from places near and far, will surely come ashore in the months and even years to come, but the entities that were part of the Oregon JTMD Task Force now benefit from the experience gained, the response plan created, the lessons learned, and the on-going collaboration of all involved, and be well prepared to handle whatever washes ashore.