Washington State Marine Debris Task Force - April 19, 2013

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Volunteers converging on beaches have new reporting options via marine debris hotline

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Marine Debris Task Force (task force) has made it easier for coastal beachgoers and volunteer groups to report marine debris harboring possible non-native plant and animal species to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

The task force recently updated 1-855-WACOAST (1-855-922-6278) – Washington’s toll-free marine debris reporting and information line – giving callers a new option to report potential invasive species directly to WDFW. WDFW will assess possible threats and take action, if needed.

“This reporting option will be useful –  if needed –  to volunteers from across the state who will converge on 50 coastal Washington beaches tomorrow, April 20, for the Washington CoastSavers’ annual Washington Coast Cleanup,” said Terry Egan of the state Military Department’s Emergency Management Division (EMD), the state’s marine debris task force lead.

Established in 2012, the task force – consisting of EMD and several other state agencies – coordinates state, federal and local activities to monitor and respond appropriately to marine debris along the Washington coast. 

The 1-855-WACOAST line was updated after the Sai-shou-maru – a 20-foot fishing boat washed out to sea by the tragic March 11, 2011, Japan tsunami – came ashore near Long Beach on March 22, 2013, with several non-native striped beakfish inside a hold.

Dozens of other non-native plant and animal species confirmed to be from Japan, including algae, anemones, crabs, marine worms and shellfish, have been found on marine debris by state and federal scientists. Aquatic invasive species can pose significant environmental and economic risks if they become established on Washington’s coastline.

WDFW has more information at their aquatic invasive species website. Beachgoers who find debris suspected of harboring invasive species can help by:

This information should be reported immediately by calling 1-855-WACOAST and pressing “3.” 

In general, many species on wood debris are not invasive and may be left alone to decay with the wood. For example, many marine debris items have pelagic gooseneck barnacles attached to them, a common marine organism that is not invasive.  Here are a few examples of non-invasive organisms from WDFW:    

Gooseneck barnacles Brown hydroids Green algae, Gooseneck
barnacles, and brown
hydroids mix

Washington Coast Cleanup April 20

On Saturday April 20, volunteers from across the state will be out on 50 coastal beaches participating in the Washington Coast Cleanup organized by Washington CoastSavers.

The cleanup event is sponsored by a broad spectrum of nonprofit organizations, community groups, corporations and public agencies including the Clallam Bay-Sekiu Lions Club, Discover Your Northwest, Grass Roots Garbage Gang, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Olympic National Park and Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

Egan said: “We are fortunate that in Washington, dedicated volunteers have been working hard for years to keep our beaches clean of marine debris. This weekend’s coastal cleanup is one of the most visible examples – but there are many more and everyone should be thankful for all these volunteer efforts. Even one-time visitors can help by removing and disposing of any small non-natural debris when it’s safe and easily feasible – and leaving beaches better than they find them.”

Lumber on beaches

Egan said volunteers and beachgoers may find pieces of milled lumber on some beaches – including small beams and other structural timbers that could be debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami.

Milled lumber that are untreated and do not contain nails or other metal fittings should generally be left on the shore to either decompose or join the natural driftwood piles. However, any pieces of lumber or other debris that appear to harbor potential invasive species should be reported to 1-855-WACOAST.

Report potentially hazardous items

Since January this year, the Washington Department of Ecology has already received 15 reports of potentially hazardous debris items on state coastal beaches including gas cylinders, fuel containers and drums. In a typical year, Ecology responds to six to 10 reports of oil spills and hazardous items on coastal beaches.

If anyone encounters oil spilled on the beach or items that appear to be harmful, do not attempt to touch or move them. Instead, call 1-855-WACOAST and press “1” to reach a live responder and report such items to Ecology.

Every year, Ecology handles 3,800 reports of oil spills and hazardous material releases and conducts 1,200 field responses.

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Media contact:

Washington State Marine Debris Task Force Information Officer, 1-855-827-9904.

For more information: