The volume of empty cans and bottles, fishing buoys and Styrofoam that washed ashore on a remote island in Alaska is worrying conservationist groups. Larger debris is expected to come in the following months.
Montague Island, 800 sq. km. off the Gulf of Alaska, was littered with all sorts of light materials bearing Japanese insignias and letters and even a refrigerator has found its way there.
Gulf of Alaska Keeper, a local conservationist group, arrived on the island to begin cleaning up the marine debris in an attempt to avoid its impact on animals. Chris Pallister, president of the group, identified several items that could harm species in the sanctuary, such as plastic and Styrofoam that animals could mistake as food.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has estimated that about 1.5 million tons of debris will wash up on western US and Canadian coasts by 2013 but changes in wind directions seem to have sped up the arrival.
Tight budgets and lack of financial support could impede the cleanup as debris continues to flow in. Alaskan senator Mark Begich asked the assistance of the federal government as budgetary cuts took place while residents asked to call in Japan for the cleanup work.