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Tsunami Rafts

September 29, 2017

Japan’s 2011 tsunami carried hundreds of tiny species to the west coast of the United States by on manmade plastic objects.

Transcript

Fisheries dock JTMD-BF-1 from the Port of Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. Carlton, et al. Science 2017

Fisheries dock (JTMD-BF-1) from the Port of Misawa, Aomori Prefecture, Japan washed ashore on 5 June 2012 on Agate Beach, near Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon. (Photograph by J.W. Chapman, in Carlton, et al./Science 2017)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Tsunami rafts. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In March of 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck eastern Japan, impacting the region to this day. But scientists have been tracking another legacy of the tsunami – a transoceanic journey of organisms that hitched a ride with ocean currents on marine debris. Williams College marine ecologist Jim Carlton led the study.

JIM CARLTON (Williams College):

We found between 2012 and 2017 nearly 300 species of Japanese invertebrates, two species of fish from Alaska to California and in the Hawaiian islands.

HIRSHON:

Carlton says many of these species likely survived for 5 or 6 years on the open ocean because they stowed-away on non-biodegradable plastics like buoys, household items, and other debris. His team reports in Science magazine that some of the new arrivals could be potentially harmful invasive species. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

Japanese barred knifejaw fish in a stern well of a fishing vessel. Carlton, et al. Science 2017

A Japanese barred knifejaw fish in a stern well of a fishing vessel from Iwate Prefecture, Japan, washed ashore 22 March 2013, on Long Beach Peninsula, Pacific County, Washington. (Photo by A. Pleus, in Carlton, et al./Science 2017)