“Floating monster” of tsunami debris worries scientists

Five million tons of debris swallowed by the sea after the earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan have amassed in the Pacific Ocean, spawning a flotilla of garbage that is raising concerns.

Several pieces of debris have washed ashore on the coasts of Hawaii, Alaska, the US west coast and Canada, and more is expected to arrive in the next years with about 1.5 million tons still adrift in the Pacific.

But the flotilla detected 1,700 miles off the coast between Hawaii and California may be the largest yet.

The floating island, containing everything from boats and building rubble, to appliances and consumer products, reportedly covers an area the size of Texas.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which have been tracking the movement of debris across the ocean since the disaster, debunked reports of a “floating monster” lurking in the ocean but said they are closely watching the mass as it crosses the Pacific.

“NOAA is collecting observations from aircraft, vessels, and high-resolution satellites in an attempt to track where the debris may go as it crosses the ocean. We are working with partners that regularly travel the Pacific Ocean, including the US Coast Guard, commercial shipping vessels, and the fishing industry to keep watch for debris,” the report said.

Scientists are also concerned about non-native organisms carried by the debris from the other side of the world. The foreign species may be invasive and could harm ecosystems.

“We’ve found over 165 non-native species so far,” John Chapman, a marine scientist at Oregon State University told Fox News. “We though. ‘the Pacific can’t be crossed by living organisms from Japan’… and we were wrong, very wrong.”

NOAA said reports of an enormous toxic mass was apparently sparked by a warning issued by the agency. The latest graphic from NOAA shows solid shape mass more than 1,000 miles wide northeast of Hawaii.

“This kind of caught fire,” Keely Belva, a spokeswoman for NOAA said of the misperceptions. The graphic was used to identify the region with the highest concentration of debris.

“Whatever debris remains floating is very spread out. It is spread out so much that you could fly a plane over the Pacific Ocean and not see any debris since it is spread over a huge area, and most of the debris is small, hard-to-see objects,” NOAA said in a report.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr

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