Montague Island Beaches Blanketed in Marine Debris
HOMER, Alaska, June 10, 2012, On May 26th, Patrick Chandler, special programs coordinator for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, and Chris Pallister, President of Gulf of Alaska Keeper (GoAK), departed Whittier with seven other crew members to clean coastlines on the southwest side of Montague Island. Erika Toh, a correspondent from the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, accompanied the crew for the first three days of the 12 day beach cleanup in order to document what was found and to help confirm which items were from Japan. Along the way to Montague Island, numerous deposits of Styrofoam and plastic buoys, debris believed to be from the last year’s tsunami in Japan, were sighted. The crew based its operations in MacLeod Harbor, and during the course of the expedition thousands of items ranging from plastic toys to hard hats and Styrofoam buoys were collected.
Walking with bags on the beach: Crew members from the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Gulf of Alaska Keeper taking bags of marine debris to load on to zodiacs and eventually transport off of Montague Island. Photo taken by Mark Tanski (Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies)
The south side of Montague Island was covered in Japan tsunami debris. It took three crew members fifteen minutes to gather a seven foot tall pile from a fifty yard stretch of beach that contained as much debris as they could collect in a day of work on the other side of the island. The amount of Styrofoam and plastic found on that one small section of beach is only a sample of what covers over fifty miles of coastline on Montague Island! Although much was collected, most of the south side of Montague Island remains covered in Styrofoam and plastic.
Loading the Zodiac: Patrick Chandler (Special Programs Coordinator for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies) loading a zodiac to transport debris and remove it from the beach. Photo taken by Mark Tanski (Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies)
On the north side of the island, recently deposited plastic water bottles, chunks of Styrofoam, and other lightweight debris were commonly found in the lower wrack line. Further back into the grass were chunks of fiberglass from shipwrecked boats, pieces of fishing nets, and numerous plastic buoys. Debris items from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and other far off places were also found. Some of the most recently washed up items, the water bottles and foam, could have been debris from the Japan tsunami.
Hauling tsunami Debris: Patrick Chandler (Special Programs Coordinator for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies) hauling tsunami debris on the Gulf of Alaska side of Montague Island. Photo taken by Ryan Pallister (Gulf of Alaska Keeper)
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Gulf of Alaska Keeper will both be conducting numerous beach cleanups in the coming months. Both organizations facilitate yearly beach monitoring and cleanups, and now a special focus has been given to monitoring and collecting tsunami debris. The amount that has arrived so far greatly exceeds the capacities of any single cleanup effort, and more resources are vital to reduce the fast accumulating tsunami debris.
For more information please visit the CACS website at www.akcoastalstudies.org or the GoAK website at www.goak.org. This cleanup was funded by The Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation www.mcafoundation.org