KILAUEA — A large blue container about the size of a jacuzzi has washed up on Kaakaaniu (Larsen’s) Beach, but experts say it’s hard to tell whether it’s debris from the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.
The tub, which has a drain, measurement markings and Japanese characters on the exterior, was probably used by fishermen to keep their fresh catches on ice while at sea, said Carl Berg, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai Chapter.
“If it broke onboard a boat and leaked, they may have just thrown it overboard,” he said in an email. “But with the lettering and numbers on it we can try to find out its history.”
Berg said such containers are common on fishing boats, though it’s also possible the tub is instead debris from the Japan tsunami.
The container is too large for Surfrider to remove from the beach, so Berg reported it Thursday to the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
DLNR said it was unsure as of Friday what it would do.
It said that NOAA commonly works with the Japan Consulate in Hawaii to confirm provenance with the Japan’s government of any debris that has Japanese characters or identification numbers. Items not claimed by the original owner are then typically disposed of.
Last year, Surfrider documented 58 large marine debris items that washed up on Kauai shores, including refrigerators, fishing floats, propane tanks and a sailboat.
The risk of leaving such large, foreign rubbish at the shore is twofold: invasive species that may be living on the container could establish themselves on the island or the surf could pull the container back out to sea, where it can harm the reef, marine life and swimmers, Berg said.
The container at Kaakaaniu is one of two large plastic tubs with Japanese markings reported to have washed up on Hawaiian shores this week. The other, found at Kamilo Beach on the Big Island, was removed by volunteers of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.
On Oahu, DLNR crews Thursday retrieved a 20-foot skiff bearing Japanese characters and vessel registration numbers near Sandy Beach. It is the seventh boat reported to have washed up on Hawaii shores since February, including three on the Big Island, two on Oahu and one on Maui, according to DLNR.
To report large or unusual marine debris items, especially those that may have attached marine organisms, email email@example.com and DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. Calls may also be made to DLNR at 587-0400.