What a catch

PORT ALLEN — A piece of tsunami debris will become a display of tribute and education, if negotiations go the right way.

Those on board say talks are positive, meaning the Japanese buoy found floating near Kauai could become a memorial at Port Allen soon.

On Thursday a group of people from Iwaki City, Japan detoured from their trip to Honolulu to view a buoy which floated from Iwaki City after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, 2011.

On first viewing, there was no doubt the buoy, which was found by the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana during a sea patrol in January, was from Iwaki.

The proof was the telephone number on the buoy’s body, and some of the calligraphy. It’s 15 feet long and 4.5 feet in diameter.

Beth Tokioka, the county’s communications director, said following a meeting of several stakeholders, an agreement is in the works to have the buoy become part of a display as a memorial to Kauai’s sister-city relationship with Iwaki City, and as a marine-debris educational display.

Naomi Inoue, president of Joban Kosan, a company with ties to Spa Resort Hawaiians, met with several stakeholders about the display.

With the help of Kauai Film Commissioner Art Umezu in interpreting, Inoue said Kauai should “seize the moment,” explaining how a coconut which floated on the currents reached Japan and triggered a popular public reaction which led to a current hit song, “Coconut.”

“This is the reverse,” Inoue said. “A buoy, broken free by the earthquake and tsunami, makes its way to Hawaii.”

Umezu and John Burger, the range sustainment coordinator at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, agreed the buoy, based on ocean currents, should not have come to Kauai, but instead should have landed in Oregon, or somewhere in the Northwest.

“This is spiritual,” Burger said. “It could have gone to any other harbor in Hawaii, but no, it came to Port Allen. The telephone number is the time the earthquake struck in Japan. This has to become a memorial of tribute, and it can educate at the same time.”

Burger said several years ago, a sailor at PMRF discovered a bottle with a message which took six years to cross the ocean from Japan.

The discovery was from a Japanese sixth grade student who set the bottle out as a project on sea currents.

“The students of the Niihau school started communicating with the school where the bottle came from, but the relationship deteriorated because of the language barrier,” Burger said. “We have another opportunity to set up this type of relationship with the display building awareness of the environmental challenges posed by marine debris.”

The Port Allen Marina Center, hub of numerous ocean tours and a 23,600 square-foot center, would be an ideal location, serving as a marine-debris educational tool for the thousands of people who embark on boating adventures each week.

There was little hesitation on the part of the Iwaki delegation in agreeing to the joint project, a sister-city project.

Tokioka said what remains is the formal negotiations between the Mayor’s Office and the Japanese government officials to cement the agreement.

She also said funds, estimated at approximately $7,500, must be raised to give the buoy a permanent home at the Port Allen Marina Center.

The buoy, weighing approximately 250 pounds, was discovered on Jan. 18, 2013, by the U.S. Navy Ship TWR-833 out of Port Allen.

After retrieving the buoy about two nautical miles west of Nohili Point, the Japanese markings and the presence of gooseneck barnacles led the Navy to believe this might be marine debris generated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami.

On Feb. 4, 2013, the Consulate-General, after working with their colleagues in Japan, confirmed the buoy was indeed tsunami debris originating from Onahama Bay, a spot where Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and a Kauai delegation had visited several months following the tsunami to show support for its sister city of Iwaki.

The Japanese government indicated they did not want the buoy returned, and is currently being stored in an A&B Properties warehouse.

People wishing to contribute to the display can call Dave Walker of the Rotary Club of West Kauai at 652-0616.

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