Barry the Barracuda reporting in once again, this time from the West Coast in Oregon. I was visiting my cousin Bertha for another family reunion when we were interrupted by the massive dock that washed ashore on Agate Beach. Apparently, this 70 foot long dock that floated ashore on an Oregon beach was torn loose from a fishing port in northern Japan by last year’s tsunami and drifted across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. These docks were originally used to move fish onto boats from trucks docked there. After it came ashore, the Japanese consulate was able to track down the origin of the dock float from a plaque bolted to it commemorating its installation in June 2008.
Apparently when the tsunami hit the northern coast of Japan last year, the waves ripped four different dock floats the size of freight train boxcars from their pilings in the fishing port of Misawa and turned them over to the whims of wind and currents. One floated up on a nearby island. Two have not been seen again. But one made an incredible journey across 5,000 miles of ocean that ended this week on a popular Oregon beach.
It was estimated that the major portion of debris would not start washing up on shores until 2013 so it is well ahead of schedule. The Barracuda clan now has a front line of defense set in place now to try to stop our borders being taken over!
Along for the ride on this dock were hundreds of millions of individual organisms, including a tiny species of crab, a species of algae, and a little starfish all native to Japan that have scientists concerned if they get a chance to spread out on the West Coast.
The dock float was covered with masses of algae, kelp, barnacles, mussels and other organisms. One square-foot area weighed nine pounds. It was an intense, intact diverse community that was kept together for the long ride to Oregon. Of particular concern was a small crab that has run wild on the East Coast, but not shown up yet on the West Coast, and a species of algae that has hit Southern California, but not Oregon. The starfish, measuring about three inches across, also appears to be new to U.S. shores. Scientists who examined the marine life clinging to the dock said there was a chance some could establish a foothold in Oregon if they weren’t disposed of properly. One in particular was a kind of edible seaweed known as wakame (wah-KAH-may). Will these become invasive species?
Invasive species are non-native plants or animals that are brought from another environment—they often have few, if any predators in a new environment, enabling them to monopolize existing resources and food supplies, which can lead to overpopulation issues and problems for existing species. In the Great Lakes, the zebra mussel, originally found in Russian streams, has out-competed native species, causing the near-extinction of native clams and mussels. In Florida the Lionfish wreaks havoc and just recently the numbers of asian tiger shrimp are on the rise.
I watched a dozen volunteers scraped the dock clean of marine organisms and sterilized it with torches Thursday to prevent the spread of invasive species. It was a shame as me and my cousins would have happily made a feast out of these tasty creatures. The volunteers removed a ton and a half of material from the dock, and buried it above the high-water line.
While scientists expect much of the floating debris to follow the currents to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an accumulation of millions of tons of small bits of plastic floating in the northern Pacific, tsunami debris that can catch the wind is making its way to North America. In recent weeks, a soccer ball washed up in Alaska, and a Harley Davidson motorcycle in a shipping container was found in British Columbia, Canada.
The dock float weighed 165 tons, was made of concrete and steel and measured 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet high. tracking the 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris likely floating across the Pacific.
Hopefully we don’t see any recurring issues like we have in Florida with the lionfish or the Gulf of Mexico with the Monster Asian Tiger Shrimp.
Until next time, Barry the Barracuda says, “Never fear my fine human friends, it is the personal mission of my whole extended family and myself to make sure you aren’t overrun with pesky critters. Remember to GPS me those trusty coordinates and I will get someone to invite them over for dinner.”