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Begich Comment on Scuttling of the Ryou-Un Maru by the U.S. Coast Guard

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich released the following statement after confirming today that the U.S. Coast Guard is sinking the Japanese ghost ship, debris from last year’s tsunami in Japan and now adrift near Sitka, Alaska. The Coast Guard went ahead with plans to sink the vessel after a Canadian company that was going to salvage the vessel decided not to:

“I support the Coast Guard’s decision to sink the tsunami ghost ship as a threat to navigation.  We can neither let this abandoned vessel drift freely amidst the shipping lanes off Sitka, nor can we allow it to become shipwrecked along the coastline of Alaska.

“Having been written off by its Japanese owner and now a Canadian salvage interest, and no responsibility party to assume the expense, I don’t want the American taxpayer to foot the bill or Alaskans to clean up the mess.

“I recommended last year the renegade pirate ship be sunk, so I am glad to see the Coast Guard moving forward on my suggestion to sink the Japanese vessel.”

Begich said he was confident today’s action will have a minimal environmental impact, if at all.  NOAA officials say any fuel on board will be quickly dispersed on the high seas.  And any debris that hasn’t already been stripped from the vessel is minimal compared to the millions of tons of debris swept out of sea by last year’s tsunami and has either sunk or is still headed toward our beaches.

Begich again called on President Obama, as he did last week with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), to restore full funding for NOAA’s marine debris program, supplement that with NSF emergency research funds and allow access for properly credentialed researchers to classified satellite and sea surface data to allow them to better monitor the trajectory of the debris.

“Last year’s disastrous earthquake and tsunami devastated Northern Japan, claimed tens of thousands of lives, and created a debris problem which we will deal with for years to come.  Further research may offer better alternatives but absent any acceptable option for the American taxpayer, the Coast Guard was right to take decisive action today to remove this twice-abandoned vessel as a hazard to navigation,” Begich added.

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