Government of Japan Gifts NOAA $5 Million to Address Tsunami Marine Debris

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The government of Japan announced Nov. 30 a gift of $5 million to the U.S., through NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris Program, to support efforts in response to marine debris washing ashore in the U.S. from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

NOAA models estimate where debris may be today. (NOAA photo)

The purpose of the donation is to demonstrate goodwill toward the U.S., which gave tremendous support in the wake of Great East Japan Earthquake, including Operation Tomodachi, in which U.S. forces assisted in rescue and recovery operations.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced this gift to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a courtesy call from Clinton during his visit to Vladivostok to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in September.

The funds will be used to support marine debris response efforts, such as removal of debris, disposal fees, cleanup supplies, detection and monitoring. NOAA anticipates distributing funds to affected regions as the funds are received from Japan and will work to determine immediate needs and plan for future applications.

Since the disaster, NOAA has been leading efforts with federal, state and local partners to coordinate a response, collect data, assess the debris, and reduce possible impacts to natural resources and coastal communities.

“We are extremely grateful to Japan for its generous support to the American people. The tragedy set in motion by the earthquake and tsunami continues to be tangible, but it brought our nations together. This gift is a powerful reminder of the goodwill, friendship and spirit of mutual support between our people,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator of NOAA. “We appreciate this partnership and collaboration with Japan as we work to keep our ocean and coasts healthy.”

Debris from the disaster has drifted across the Pacific and reached shorelines in the U.S. and Canada. In July, NOAA provided $50,000 each to Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California to support response efforts.

Items from the tsunami that have drifted to U.S. shores include sports balls, a floating dock, buoys and vessels. Mariners and the public can help report debris by emailing [email protected] with information on significant sightings. For the latest information on tsunami debris, visit http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources. Visit www.noaa.gov and find NOAA on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

Additional Statements

“We’re pleased that Japanese government is providing funds to help agencies in California and the other states affected by tsunami debris offset some of our response and cleanup costs, particularly at a time when state and local budgets are tight,” said Mark Ghilarducci of the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA), which coordinates overall state-agency emergency preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation efforts in California. “The funds provided by the Japanese government, combined with the $50,000 previously allocated by NOAA, will help relieve some of the financial burden that response and cleanup has placed on California agencies and taxpayers. We look forward to working with our local, state and federal partners to restore life along the coast to normal as quickly as possible and to meet the challenges ahead.”

“The people of the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) have been concerned with the debris discovered in some of the coastal states’ shorelines. While there are currently no reported discoveries in the CNMI yet, we remain vigilant because of our very close proximity to Japan,” said CNMI Gov. Benigno R. Fitial. “We thank Japan for its generosity and we take comfort in knowing that NOAA’s Marine Debris Program will have this funding source for those affected or will be affected.”

“Oregonians appreciate this gesture of goodwill from the people of Japan. The Misawa dock landing on our shore was a reminder of the tsunami’s devastation, but also of the ocean our two nations share,” said Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

“In the wake of the devastating tsunami, this commitment by the government of Japan is an ongoing demonstration of the nation’s continued contributions to the international community,” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “It’s also a true indication of their friendship and generosity. Their assistance will help our coastal communities respond to possible increases in debris and protect our coastal environment. We continue to offer our condolences for the tragedy that claimed so many lives and the need for so much rebuilding in Japan, and continue to admire the strength, commitment and resilience of the Japanese people.”

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