UH researchers believe tsunami debris arriving in Hawaii

UH researchers believe tsunami debris arriving in Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii researchers believe that tsunami debris from Japan is starting to show up in the islands. A colorful computer model they created predicts the path of tsunami debris in the Pacific.

"Most of the debris that was drifting towards the West Coast is probably already there, so we think the next step, next page of this story is tsunami debris coming to Hawaii," explained Nikolai Maximenko, senior researcher at the International Pacific Research Center.

According to scientists, at least 100 oyster buoys believed to be from Japan turned up on the West Coast by January 2012. Starting in June, boaters and beachgoers in Hawaii reported at least five of them off the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

"This was the first kind of indicator that tsunami debris might be coming. However, it's not so easy to prove because it's just a generic buoy," said Jan Hafner, scientific computer programmer at the International Pacific Research Center.

As Hawaii News Now reported exclusively, researchers pulled a four foot cube out of the ocean near Sea Life Park on Tuesday. Biologists said it was covered with gooseneck barnacles and two types of crabs. They are not considered alien species. Some seabirds were also trapped inside. The bin featured the name Y.K. Suisan Co., Ltd., a Japanese seafood company based in Miyagi prefecture, which was in the tsunami zone.

"It was exciting news because we were expecting some tsunami debris to come to Hawaii actually any time," said Hafner.

State and federal agencies are working with the Japanese consulate to determine if the bin is the first confirmed piece of tsunami debris to arrive in Hawaii.

"In many cases it will be very difficult to prove that it originates from Japan. In many cases it's important to collect enough objects to build timeline to be sure that we are dealing with tsunami debris," Maximenko said.

Researchers don't want to alarm anyone, but they're hoping people take the time to report unusual items they see.

"The impact on Hawaii will not necessarily be negative, however, we need to address many risks associated with this debris such as danger to navigation, alien species," said Maximenko.

Authorities are asking boaters and beachgoers who spot unusual items to note the date, time and location. Sending a photo of the debris would also help. You can email the information to marinedebris@soesthawaii.edu.