Thursday, May 19, 2022 |
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KILAUEA — A little, cracked boat has washed up near Anini Beach and the life on it could be some of the more than 50 alien species landing on Kauai shores from the 2011 Japan tsunami.
The boat is about three meters long and has a few mollusk-like animals attached to the back of the hull, said Carl Berg, ecologist and head of Surfrider Kauai’s Blue Water Task Force.
He checked the boat Monday morning for any living animals, and found something.
“I went out there today and took the knobs off, I think it might be a baby barnacle,” he said.
The boat washed up Friday and Berg said initial photos showed the boat had algae that looked alive, but by Monday morning the algae was wiped off the boat.
Living alien algae is a concern for Hawaii because the state has a large amount of invasive algae already causing problems, said Bruce Anderson, administrator for the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources.
“We suspect most of the invasive algaes came to Hawaii on hulls of ships or on the floating rafts,” Anderson said.
The term for items such as the yellow boat that washed up is tsunami-driven rafting. It refers to the debris that was created and then washed out to sea during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
According to an essay recently published in SCIENCE magazine, researchers estimate the earthquake carried more than 300 species to new locations aboard large fiberglass and other non-biodegradable objects, which don’t break down like wood when they’re in the ocean and can travel long distances, carrying passengers with them.
“The biodegradable materials would eventually sink,” Anderson said. “It’s an increasing concern as we see more development and building along our coastlines.”
Sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint the location of origin for debris that washes up on the beaches, and to track down how long they’ve been in the water.
The yellow boat at Wires surf spot near Anini has a manufacturing plate, for instance, that was sanded clean from being washed in the waves, but it does have Japanese characters indicating the length of the vessel.
Researchers worldwide have been trying to decipher how long debris from the tsunami could be carrying live species, since the earthquake and tsunami happened six years ago.
“We may not have to worry about it anymore. If it’s been out to sea 5 years and it’s all died off, but the answer is (we may not have to),” Berg said.
Anderson said climate change is exacerbating the problem because predictions are for more severe storms with a higher frequency.
“That will result in marine debris generation and the rafts that float around, they persist for long periods of time,” Anderson said. “It’s not a problem that’s going away.”
Berg said he found out about the boat at Wires through social media, and said he encourages Kauai’s residents and visitors to continue to post photos of debris found on beaches.
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