Marine Debris News

A wave of fishing nets and ropes washes up on O'ahu's southwestern beaches

Honolulu, May 29th 2018
Fishing nets have been washing up frequently over the past few months on the Island of Oahu, but not as usually on the north and northeastern (Windward) beaches such as Kaena Point, Kahuku (James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge), Malaekahana, Waimanalo, and Kaneohe Bay. The recent hot spots for nets, apart from the ocean itself, are Waikiki, Diamond Head, Black Point, and around harbors like Pier 38, Kewalo Marine Basin, and Sand Island. This is strange, as the amounts of other types of debris at these same locations have remained small. The Marine Debris Team at IPRC is striving to understand better the sources and pathways of these nets in the open ocean and in Hawaiian waters by using satellite trackers, remote sensing, and numerical modeling. In this task, support from volunteers reporting the debris is critical and helps to advance the science. If interested in contributing to oceanographic research, please report any findings to Also, please visit our website for an updated list of sightings.

Hawai‘i High school students visit IPRC

Honolulu, May 10th 2018
Scientists and educators from SOEST and IPRC are participating in an outreach and education program that invites students from high schools on O‘ahu to attend science-oriented outreach talks on volcanology, geology, marine science, and other disciplines. Our own Marine Debris Team members Sarah-Jeanne Royer and Jan Hafner tell students about the spread and impacts of the flotsam, mainly about plastic and other man-made materials in the ocean. Recently, they hosted Waldorf, McKinley and Mid-Pacific High School students, who learn about the sources of marine debris and discuss ways to mitigate this global problem. Our presentations are interactive with students having hands-on experiences with various marine debris. The students hear about our scientific studies using marine debris reports from citizens and volunteers on the Hawaiian Islands and about our SCUD model, which uses surface currents derived from satellite observations of the sea level and roughness to simulate the drift of tsunami debris from the coast of Japan across the North Pacific to Hawai‘i. We are looking forward to further outreach work and to welcoming more students at IPRC!

Published: Summary of multi-model simulations of debris drift from the 2011 Japan tsunami

Honolulu,April 30th, 2018
The tragic 2011 tsunami devastated the northeast coast of Japan, producing millions of tons of marine debris that drifted across the North Pacific. IPRCs Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner, in collaboration with Masafumi Kamachi (JAMSTEC) and Amy MacFadyen (NOAA), published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. Their report includes calibration/validation of the model solutions using observational reports and estimates of the total amounts and fate of Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris. Synthesis between numerical models and observational reports allowed a big picture reconstruction of the circulation of different types of debris as well as quantitative estimates of the influx to the North American coast, storage in the Subtropical Gyre garbage patch, and recirculation southwest to Hawai‘i and beyond. The models agree that windage, a variable characterizing debris exposure to the wind, stratifies the debris and affects the pathways during the eastward drift from Japan: high-windage items reaching North America first, at the end of 2011, with lower windage items arriving up to approximately 36 months later. Only SCUD model, however, successfully reproduced all main peaks of tsunami-boat arrivals reported from the US/Canada West Coast indicating that surface currents and surface drift remain a challenging task for ocean models.

IPRC Scientists at the Sixth Annual Marine Debris Conference

Honolulu, March 20, 2018
The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference, held in San Diego, California from March 12th to 16th, 2018, drew 700 participants, with 28 delegates from Hawaii, representing scientists, non-governmental organizations, resource managers, and the public. Nikolai Maximenko, convened the session Remote Sensing of Marine Debris in Open Ocean to which eight specialists in the field were invited to present their findings. Maximenko also presented a talk on the Pathways, Impacts, and Fate of Marine Debris generated by the 2011 Tsunami in Japan derived from a synthesis of numerical models and observational reports. Jan Hafner presented his work Transport of Marine Debris in the North Pacific: The Case of Hawaii, in which he discussed the drift of tsunami debris from the coast of Japan across the North Pacific to Hawaii using ocean surface currents and winds data. IPRC’s newest post-doctoral fellow Sarah-Jeanne Royer presented a talk on the production of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Plastic and three posters including one related to citizen science “Bridging community work and academia,” that describes the plastic accumulation at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.

IPRC Marine Debris Researcher investigates a big catch!

Honolulu, February 20, 2018
The Marine Debris group at IPRC, led by Nikolai Maximenko, has spent years tracking the pathways of debris around the Pacific Basin and beyond. Material washes up across all the Hawaiian islands, from wooden beams and refrigerator doors to bags and microplastics, but Kamilo Point on Hawai‘i Island is known for unusually high concentrations of marine litter. Recently, the largest accumulation of fishing nets seen in the islands was found on Kamilo Beach by the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, who relayed the sighting to Sarah-Jeanne Royer, a new post-doctoral fellow working with the IPRC Marine Debris group. At an estimated 40 tons, the pile of nets likely comes from fishing grounds in the northern North Pacific Ocean, by way of the so-called Garbage Patch at the center of the northern gyre. The find supplies a new data point for Royer’s work in the ongoing efforts to track Pacific debris pathways to show how man-made debris changes the global geography of the ocean ecosystem. Watch an interview with Royer at Hawaii News Now here.

Analysis of Flight MH370 likely debris trajectories
awarded Denny Medal

Honolulu, May 12, 2017
IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner are co-authors of the paper Analysis of flight MH370 potential debris trajectories using ocean observations and numerical model results, which was awarded the 2016 prestigious Denny Silver Gilt Medal by the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology for the best paper published over the course of one year in the Journal of Operational Oceanography. The first author of the paper, Joaquin A. Trinanes, received the medal at a reception of the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology, Ship Observation Team Meeting (SOT-9) in London, UK, end of March. The paper explored the possibilities of using models, remote sensing, and in situ data for practical purposes. The presentation of the award within the scope of the SOT meeting signals the importance of efforts that bring people together in developing a sustainable and efficient ocean observation network.

SCOR Working Group proposal on the transport and modeling of marine litter (FLOTSAM)

Honolulu, April 27, 2017
Marine debris is a major ocean health issue. To address this issue, IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko has become vice-chair on a proposal to the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) to set up an international working group of scientists (FLOTSAM) that brings together expertise in plastic marine debris and ocean observations, remote sensing, and numerical modeling. The objectives of the group are to identify gaps in our knowledge of the near-surface ocean dynamics that may affect litter distribution and transport; to improve future marine litter modeling capabilities; to evaluate existing and emerging remote sensing technologies that can be applied to detect marine litter in the open ocean; and to improve awareness of the scientific understanding of marine debris, based on better observations and modeling results. The proposal is available for public reviews on the SCOR website until August 1, 2017.

IPRC Hosts First Workshop of the Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan Research Hui

Honolulu, April 4, 2017
The goal of the Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan (HI-MDAP) is to establish a comprehensive framework for strategic action to reduce the ecological, health and safety, and economic impacts of marine debris on Hawai‘i by 2020. The goal of the HI-MDAP Research Hui workshop was to identify research priorities for marine debris in Hawaii. The daylong workshop, organized by Kirsten Moy with the UH Coral Reef Initiative and NOAA affiliates Mark Manuel and Grace Chon, was hosted by the IPRC Marine Debris Team on March 29. The meeting opened with reviews of current research: Nikolai Maximenko spoke on marine debris pathways to Hawaii; other topics ranged from amounts and chemical characteristics of ingested plastics in pelagic Pacific sea turtles and seabirds, to accumulation of marine debris on Midway Atoll. Representatives of Hawaii organizations dealing with retrieving and analyzing marine debris summarized their work briefly. During the afternoon plenary session, the participants discussed the marine debris research priorities for Hawaii and resources and support needed to achieve the research goals. (See Agenda)

Developing a Remote Sensing System to Track Marine Debris

Honolulu, October 25, 2016
EOS, the Earth and Space Science Newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, featured in its latest issue the Workshop on Mission Concepts for Marine Debris Sensing. As yet, no observing system exists to answer such questions as to what the sources, pathways, sinks, balance, lifecycles, and impacts of marine debris are, and how large plastic items break into tiny fragments (microplastics) commonly found in marine mammals, birds, turtles, and fish. Workshop participants discussed how to adapt and apply existing technologies to remotely track marine debris to monitor trends and help answer these and other questions.
The international workshop, held at the East-West Center in January 2016, included researchers, citizen scientists, engineers, and cleanup experts from academic institutions, government and nongovernment organizations, and industry. Workshop organizers were Nikolai Maximenko of the IPRC, Yi Chao and Delwyn Moller of Remote Sensing Solutions, Monrovia, Calif. The workshop was funded by the NASA Physical Oceanography Program. Read EOS article; the January 2016 meeting presentations.

United Nations' First World Ocean Assessment Features IPRC Map of the Garbage Patches

Honolulu, October 20, 2016
The Oceans & Law of the Sea of the United Nations has published its “First Global Integrated Marine Assessment,” as part of regular global reports and assessments of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects. Chapter 25, Marine Debris, refers to the article Tracking Marine Debris, appearing in the 2008 IPRC Climate and showing the map of 5 garbage patches in the World Ocean as simulated in the IPRC Drift Model, developed by a group of scientists spearheaded by IPRC'S Nikolai Maximenko.
“Computer model simulations, based on data from about 12,000 satellite-tracked floats deployed since the early 1990s as part of the Global Ocean Drifter Program (GODP, 2011), confirm that debris will be subject to transport by ocean currents and will tend to accumulate in a limited number of sub-tropical convergence zones,” is the explanaton for the map given in the UN publication.

Wing Fragment on Mauritius Consistent with IPRC Model Simulation of Flight MH370 Debris Drift

Canberra, October 7, 2016
Australian Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, confirmed that the fragment of the plane wing discovered in Mauritius in May comes from the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane. This piece as well as the pieces found on Reunion, Pemba Island in Tasmania, and in Mozambique are consistent with the IPRC Drift Model’s simulation of the debris drift from Flight MH370 probable crash region. See Map of probable crash site and places where MH370 debris was found. See IPRC Drift Model Simulation.

DOS Greening Diplomacy Joins International Coastal Cleanup on its 30th Anniversary

Kahuku, Oahu, September 9, 2016
The US Department of States Office of Foreign Missions (OFM) launched a new outreach initiative, Greening Diplomacy. To raise awareness and help stem the tide of pollution through coastal cleanups, the OFM invited the Hawaii Consular Corps (CC) to join the 30th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day, held at the Campbell Wild Life Refuge. Consular Corp Members from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Switzerland participated. IPRC Marine Debris Project Members also joined the event that was led by ICC Coordinator Chris Woolaway. Among the debris collected were items that probably stem from the 2011 tsunami: a dock with a concrete shell over styrofoam, a refrigerator door and crates from Fisheries in Iwate Prefecture. Participants removed between 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of plastic debris and fishing lines from 150 feet of shoreline. Click for group photo; for selected items removed.

IPRC Marine Debris Team Hosts Second Intern from Brazil

Honolulu, July 28, 2016
Joao Pedro Cardoso became the second IPRC marine debris team intern from Brazil. An undergraduate oceanography student from Rio de Janeiro State University, Joao is on a 12-month scholarship from the Brazilian government program called “Ciências sem Fronteiras” (Science Without Borders). Most of his internship he spent at Monterey Bay California State University. He chose to come to the IPRC for the 2-month-internship requirement to study with Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner the problems of marine debris. As part of his internship, he did coastline marine debris surveys of several windward beaches on Oahu. With Maximenko, he developed a method for creating a marine debris photo database, which can be searched and analyzed using MATLAB. His visit was fruitful for all and we will miss Joao. Read Joao’s story.

Major Japanese Newspaper to Follow up on Driftage from the 2011 Tsunami

Honolulu, June 24, 2016
Yomiuri Shimbun, a leading daily newspaper in Japan, plans to feature an update on the driftage from the tragic 2011 tsunami. Thus, Norimasa Tahara, who has recently become the Chief of the newspaper’s Los Angeles Bureau and reporter Sam Hecht, who is also with the Los Angeles Bureau, visited the IPRC and talked with Nikolai Maximenko, Jan Hafner, and Joao Pedro Rodrigues (intern from Brazil) about the most recent IPRC research and findings on the tsunami debris in North America and about the ever-growing global problems with marine debris.  

Vessel Lost in Tsunami Drifts over 10,000 Miles back to Japan

Miyako-city, Okinawa Prefecture, May 12, 2016
The Research Vessel Kaisyou of the Kesennuma Local Fisheries Laboratory in Miyagi_Prefecture was sucked out into the Pacific during the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan. In May 2016, the boat was found about 4 miles offshore from Miyako-jima, Okinawa Prefecture. The IPRC Drift Model, developed by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner and used to chart the drift path of millions of tons of debris from the tsunami, simulated the likely route the Kaisyou drifted during its astonishing 5-year-2-month-long journey, floating eastward across the Pacific during 2011 and 2012 and then circulating back westward during 2013 to 2016.

Hahaione School Students Learn about Marine Debris at IPRC

Honolulu, February 24, 2016
A group of fifth-grade students at Hahaione Elementary School in Honolulu are studying marine debris. To learn more from scientists, the students visited the IPRC and met with Jan Hafner. Hafner showed them how ocean currents and winds push floating marine debris along pathways in the large ocean gyres and how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch forms. The students inspected with fascination the pieces of wood and the refrigerator door that washed into the ocean during the 2011 tsunami and then floated from Japan all the way to Hawaii. They were curious about the different types of plastic debris samples that Hafner showed them and were amazed at how larger pieces of plastic get ground down into microplastics over the years. Click for large photo; click for group photo.

Daini Katsu Maru Returns Home

Honolulu, February 23, 2016
The tiny Daini Katsu Maru washed onto Oahu’s shores on April 22, 2015, more than 4 years after the devastating 2011 Japan tsunami sucked it into the ocean in Ogatsu-town. The 30-foot fishing boat’s likely journey was charted by IPRC’s Jan Hafner based on an analysis with the IPRC Ocean Drift Model. It probably wandered around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for some time according to IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko, who was interviewed by Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and by Hawaii News Now TV station. Loaded under fanfare on February 20 onto the Miyagi Maru, the Daini Katsu Maru is returning home, where it will be displayed at a cultural center being planned by the newly formed Daini Katsu Maru Preservation Society to commemorate the earthquake and tsunami. Click for: DLNR press video; Hawaii News Now.

NASA Mission on Global Monitoring of Marine Debris

Honolulu, January 28, 2016
Eight million tonnes of plastic estimated entering the ocean every year jeopardize fish and other marine life on which we depend. Much of it comes from landfills leaking one-third of the 78 million tons of plastic collected annually. On January 19-21, the IPRC hosted the Workshop on Mission Concepts for Marine Debris Sensing, which was sponsored by NASA Physical Oceanography and co-organized by Remote Sensing Solutions, Inc. The international group of oceanographers, remote sensing scientists, and marine debris experts came together to review existing and emerging technologies and to draft the mission objectives. Discussions included characterization of different types of debris, identification of gaps in our knowledge, and requirements for the future observing system. The meeting began work on a white paper that will be produced with contributions from a larger scientific community. (Click for photo)

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

Honolulu, November 17, 2015
The book 438 Days, just published by Simon & Schuster and authored by Jonathan Franklin, tells the story of the fisherman Jose Salvador Alvarenga's over 14-month-long drift from Mexico westward across the Pacific to Ebon Atoll in the Marshall Islands. To verify his unlikely story, Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner had run the IPRC Drift model by placing tracers into the model 200 nautical miles southwest of the coastal fishing village Chiapas, Mexico, on December 20, 2012, around the time that Jose Salvador Alvarenga says he was blown off shore. The simulations, which they published in February 2014, confirmed the fisherman’s story, and they were then contacted by Franklin, who has acknowledged in his book their help “to understand the wild of the Pacific Ocean."

Holomua Elementary School Wins TRASH TREKSM First Lego League District Competition

Honoluu, Wednesday, November 10, 2015
The team from Holomua Elementary School that interviewed Jan Hafner about microplastic for the Trash TreckSM 2015 FIRST LEGO League Robotic Competition, won at the District Challenge first place for both Robot Mission and Project Presentation. Their winning design is a solar-powered Nurdle Turtle, inspired in part by Hafner’s description of floating and sinking debris. About 5-ft. long & 4-ft. tall, the turtle scoops up sand that is then deposited into a compartment filled with water. The sand sinks while the microplastic floats to the top, where it is collected by a robotic arm and dropped into a second compartment where it stays until emptied. A trap door opens to release the sand.
We wish the team good luck on December 5, when they compete at the Hawaii State level at Neal Blaisdell Center.

Helping Students Prepare for
Tracking Trash Robotics Competition

Honolulu, October 7, 2015
Jan Hafner has been busy helping student-groups prepare for the 2015 FIRST® LEGO League, which has the theme "TRASH TREKSM Challenge". His pictures and simulations let students understand how ocean debris moves through the gyres and collects in "garbage patches." He shows them real pieces that have drifted to Hawaii from the 2011 tsunami as well as other plastic debris of various shapes and sizes, including nearly invisible micro plastics.This all makes the students aware of the huge ocean debris problem. In the photo you see a group of 5th grade Punahou students with Hafner (right) and Nikolai Maximenko. Together with Kin Wang, Hafner held a similar session via Face Time with students at Holomua Elementary School.

IPRC Marine Debris Drift Model Simulates MH370 Crash Site and Flow Paths

Honolulu, August 6, 2015
The IPRC Marine Debris Drift Model has simulated the flow paths of the flaperon from the likely crash site of Flight MH370 to Reunion and also maps to guide on-shore search for Flight MH370 Debris The developers of this model, Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner, have been using it to successfully simulate the pathways of millions of tons of marine debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. View the simulation and the maps.

IPRC's Marine Debris Project Hosts Intern

Honolulu, July 22, 2015
Melanie Vianna Alencar joined the IPRC marine debris team this summer as intern. An undergraduate oceanography student from Brazil, Melanie is on an 18-month scholarship of the Brazilian government program called “Ciências sem Fronteiras” (Science Without Borders). Most of her internship she is spending at Monterey Bay California State University. She chose to come to the IPRC for the 2-month-internship requirement to study marine debris problems. Working with Nikolai Maximenko, Jan Hafner, and Kin Lik Wang, she sorted samples of macro and microplastic collected during the last excursion to Hawaii Island, quality controlled the IPRC Japan tsunami marine debris database, monitored marine debris on Oahu windward beaches, and met international sailors and local groups working on marine debris. It was a fruitful and productive visit for all. Read Melanie’s story.

A Wave of Boats Washes up on Hawaii Beaches

Honolulu, May 18, 2015
From mid-February to the end of April, nine skiffs washed up on the windward beaches of four of our Hawaiian Islands. Several have been confirmed to have been lost in the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.
   The IPRC marine debris team has calibrated its models with observations from Hawaii and the US - Canada West Coast through a partnership with NOAA, the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), which received a grant from the Japan Ministry of Environment for Asian species research on tsunami debris. The project is called ADRIFT (Assessing the Debris-Related Impact From Tsunami).
   According to the IPRC tsunami debris model, the tsunami swept an estimated 1000 boats and skiffs into the ocean and most of these are still wandering around the "garbage patch" (a convergent zone with weak winds and currents between Hawaii and North America). Occasionally thrown out of the garbage patch by storms, the boats tend to float towards Hawaii and wash up on our shores with peaks from February to May.
   Because these mostly plastic or fiberglass boats show little sign of degradation, and only 10-20% of “debris” in the model ends up on shore each year, these boats and other long-living tsunami debris are expected to continue arriving here for years to come. Asian marine species often colonize the boats and their ability to survive the trans-Pacific journey has surprised marine biologists.

IPRC’s Tsunami and Marine Debris Work in the News

Honolulu, March15, 2015
On the anniversary of the devastating March 2011 tsunami in Japan, members of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization and the Japan Ministry of Education are holding a joint conference in Honolulu to present findings of their project on the tsunami and marine debris. Surprising is that several fishing skiffs lost in the tsunami are washing up on Hawaii beaches four years after the disaster. IPRC’s Tsunami and Marine Debris Model and the Sightings page made it into the news once again. Read more.

Japanese High School Students Visit IPRC

Honlulu, March 15, 2015
The International Pacific Research Center once again welcomed 21 Japanese high school students and their 3 teachers. They were from Morioka Daisan High School. The purpose of their trip to Hawaii was to be exposed to spoken English in an academic environment with a science focus. Morioka, the capital of Iwate Prefecture, suffered much devastation in the March 2011 tsunami. The students thus listened attentively to the 90 minute powerpoint presentation by IPRC’s Jan Hafner about the IPRC tsunami and marine debris model and how the model was able to track the travels of the debris across the ocean to the North Pacific Coast, and some of it into the Great Garbage Patch and then onto the north-east facing shores of Hawaii. Read more.

Maps of IPRC Tsunami Debris Model in Barcelona World Race

Honolulu, January 8, 2015
The IPRC Tsunami Debris Model of Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner took center stage in maps on the poster “Effect of Marine Debris Caused by the Great Tsunami of 2011,” presented at the 2nd International Ocean Research Conference in Barcelona by Alexander Bychkov, PICES Executive Secretary and coordinator of the project on the impact of invasive species arriving along the US West Coast in the 2011 tsunami debris. Of 400 entries, this poster is one of 10 that is posted on sailboats taking part in the Barcelona World Race. The invasive species project is funded by the Japan Ministry of the Environment.

Why the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Honolulu, November 30, 2014
IPRC’s Jan Hafner was interviewed by Amber Liggett for an episode about the Great Pacific Patch on Millersville University Weather Watch TV. The video shows the circulation in the North Pacific and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Hafner described how as a result of wind and currents, garbage accumulates in the patch and, how at times during storms and strong winds, some of the garbage is pushed out of the patch again. You can view the YouTube Video: Liggett’s story goes from 2:00 to 4:15 minutes, with Hafner’s interview starting at 2:35.

Transport of marine debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan

Honolulu, November 10, 2014
“Transport of marine debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan: Model simulations and observational evidence,” was the title of the talk by IPRC’s Jan Hafner at the 2014 North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) Annual Meeting, Toward a better understanding of the North Pacific: Reflecting on the past and steering for the future. Sponsored and organized by PICES, the meeting was held October 16-26, 2014, in Yeosu, Republic of Korea, and hosted by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute. Click here for Hafner’s presentation as a PDF.

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere!

Monday, September 15, 2014
Jan Hafner talked with Code Green host Howard Wiig on the topic “Plastic, Plastic Everywhere!” Hafner was invited to the show on account of his and Nikolai Maximenko’s work on the IPRC Marine Debris Model. During the interview, he showed different types of plastic pieces gathered on Kamilo Beach to illustrate how large pieces break down into tiny sand-like pieces that are then eaten by fish, thereby leading to chemicals in the plastic entering the food chain. Solutions to the ocean’s plastic problem by preventing more plastic entering the ocean and ways to collect the plastic were discussed. To see the show click here.

IPRC tsunami debris model at Secretary of State John Kerry briefing

Washington, June 17, 2014
Secretary of State John Kerry and environmental activist Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio were briefed by NASA Physical Oceanography Program Scientist Eric Lindstrom on NASA’s ocean observing capabilities at "Our Ocean" Conference of the US Department of State. Lindstrom included in the session the IPRC Tsunami Debris Model developed by IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner. Click for photo.

Kauai dedicates memorial to 2011 Japan tsunami

Kauai, May 16, 2014
A buoy from Onahama Bay, the port of Iwaki City in Tohoku, was washed away during the 2011 tsunami in Japan. It was picked up by the US Navy off Kauai shores in January 2013 and now forms at Port Allen the centerpiece of a memorial to the tragic tsunami. The dedication ceremony featured speakers and cultural activities from both Iwaki City and Kauai County, which coincidentally are "sister cities." IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko estimated the buoy’s nearly two-year journey across the Pacific based on calculations with the IPRC tsunami debris model he developed together with Jan Hafner. The map of the calculated path is featured on the memorial's plaque, which lists IPRC as one of the sponsors. See plaque photo; watch video; watch HawaiiNewsNow; and read Star-Advertiser. Read news reported in Japan: minpo and minyu-net.

Nikolai Maximenko talks on KITV4 about tracking debris from 3-year-old Japan tsunami

Honolulu, March 11, 2014
On the 3-year anniversary of the tragic tsunami in Japan, IPRC's Nikolai Maximenko was interviewed by Cam Tran of KITV4 about his work on tracking the tsunami driftage in his model and in observations. He described the different type of debris arriving in Hawaii during the three years: very boyant objects about 18 months after the tragedy, then refrigerator parts and little boats, and recently pieces sitting deep in the water such as large beams and poles. Many pieces, especially the plastic ones will break apart with time into smaller and smaller pieces that recirculate in the ocean and become ingested by birds and marine animals. See interview.

Debris from tsunami continues to wash up in Hawaii

Honolulu, March 6, 2014
Upon reports of a huge beam washing up on the shore near Travaasa Hana Resort on the east end of Maui, Gary Kubota from the Star-Advertiser interviewed IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko. Maximenko said he suspected the wooden beam to be from the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan, as pictures showed that the beam had similar mortise and tenon features as other beams that have recently been reaching Hawaii shores, including wood from houses broken apart in the disaster. Wind and currents are the two major factors influencing the drift of the tsunami debris. Read more in Star-Advertiser Print Replica.

What has happened to the 2011 tsunami debris?
Outcomes from synthesis of model simulations and observations

Honolulu, February 21, 2014
The amount of debris in the ocean is growing exponentially, becoming more and more hazardous and harmful to marine life and therefore to our ocean food source. The technology of measuring the movements of such debris is still in its infancy. The driftage generated by the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan gave IPRC's Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner a unique chance to learn about the effects of currents and winds on floating materials as they move across the North Pacific Ocean. The outcomes are presented at the Ocean Sciences 2014 meeting. See PowerPoint presentation. Read more in International Business Times, and in Ideas, Inventions, and Innovations; and Science Daily.

Castaway fisherman’s journey matches currents and winds

Honolulu, February 11, 2014
The fisherman’s improbable 13-month voyage from Mexico westward across the Pacific agrees with simulations of a computer model developed at the University Hawaii Manoa International Pacific Research Center. Senior Scientist Nikolai Maximenko and Scientific Programmer Jan Hafner placed 16 tracers into their ocean model 200 nautical miles southwest of the coastal fishing village Chiapas, Mexico, on December 20, 2012, around the time that Jose Salvador Alvarenga says he was blown off shore. Read more in Star-Advertiser and in press release.

IPRC's Marine Debris Group honored

Honolulu, February 10, 2014
At a special awards luncheon on February 7, 2014, IPRC’s Senior Researcher Nikolai Maximenko, Scientific Programmer Jan Hafner, and Outreach Specialist Gisela Speidel were honored as "RCUH 2013 Outstanding Employees of the Year." The award recognized their achievements as a team dealing with the scientific and public outreach aspects of tracking the floating debris following the March 2011 Japan tsunami. Their work produced exciting research results and played an important public service role in providing officials and the public a realistic assessment of the concerns about the debris.

Wood objects sent adrift after the 2011 Japan tsunami have surprised researchers

Honolulu, January 5, 2014
University of Hawaii researchers Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner, monitoring the tsunami debris, say objects such as boats, buoys and lighter materials are being replaced with a steady stream of heavier wooden beams and planks. The IPRC website logs reported debris that comes ashore. Since Sept. 24 it has documented nearly two dozen poles, beams, planks and other wooden building materials washing up on diffieren Hawaii beaches. Maximenko is surprised that wood could stay afloat for such a long time, which raises the ecological question how floating trees could carry marine and vegetation to Hawaii. Read more in Star-Advertiser.

IPRC tsunami debris model may help in locating debris with invasive species

Honolulu, December 15, 2013
Jono Blodgett, an aquatic-invasive-species supervisor with Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources, says in the Japan Times that ocean trash arriving in Hawaii is not generally a concern for invasive species. Tsunami debris that has been sitting in Japan’s coastal waters for many years, however, has had time to grow local species. When these species are now transported across the Pacific on the debris, they pose a threat of becoming invasive to Hawaii. In conjunction with this news story, IPRC's Jan Hafner was interviewed about the IPRC tsunami debris model, which creates maps that project where various types of the tsunami debris travel over time. More in the Japan Times.

Where Will Debris from Super Typhoon Haiyan Go in the Ocean?

Honolulu, November 22, 2013
Using the model developed for the 2011 tsunami debris, IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner are projecting paths for debris that might have been generated by super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. According to the model, any typhoon-generated marine debris is expected to move westward through the Philippine Archipelago into the South China Sea. Unclear is whether from there it would be carried to the coasts of Vietnam or would be diverted by currents and winds to different shores of the South China Sea. Read press release.

New wave of possible tsunami debris arriving on Hawaii shores

Honolulu, November 14, 2013
A different type of possible tsunami debris is starting to wash up on the islands' shorelines: beams from houses or other wooden constructions, such as a 20-foot wooden beam at Malaekahana Beach on Oahu. IPRC’s outreach specialist, Gisela Speidel, said the piece could indicate a new wave of tsunami debris headed our way. Before, oyster buoys or boats arrived, objects that sit high in the water and are more wind-driven. Now it is the more current-driven debris. Click to Watch KITV4 report.

Lumber on windward shores might be from tsunami

Honolulu, November 7, 2013
Three long poles, perhaps tsunami debris from Japan, have washed up on Oahu windward shores over the past several days. One was found on Kalama Beach, part of Kailua Beach, two others at Malaekahana Bay. According to IPRC’s Senior Scientist Nikolai Maximenko, the arrival of such pieces floating low in the water is consistent with the our IPRC model, which suggests that low-windage tsunami-debris is now arriving. See Star-Advertiser story.

Mistake Triggers False Alarm about Ocean Radioactivity

Honolulu, August 30, 2013

Why Is So Much Tsunami Debris Arriving in Hawaii Now?

Honolulu, February 25, 2013
"The currents in the Northwest Pacific collect debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Winds and storms push the debris out of the patch again, and then the trade winds bring it to Hawaii. Recently the trades have been very strong. This is why we have seen more than the usual amount of debris washing up on Hawaii shores, much of it seems to be from the 2011 Japan tsunami," says IPRC Senior Scientist Nikolai Maximenko. Read more in Star-Advertiser.

Web-camera Monitoring of Quantity and Movement of Beached Marine Debris

Honolulu, February 20, 2013
During today's seminar/webinar, Tomoya Kataoka from the National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management, Ibaraki, Japan, spoke about web-camera monitoring of quantity and movement of beached marine debris. To view Kataoka's PowerPoint file click here. To view and download the webinar recording, click here. For video-recording of the meeting, click here.

Japanese Agencies Collaborate with Hawaii on Tsunami Debris

Honolulu, January 11, 2013
Representatives of Japanese government and non-government agencies came to Hawaii to inspect the presence of marine debris from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami on Hawaiian beaches. Led by the Japan Environmental Action Network (JEAN), the group wants to work with Hawaii groups on tsunami debris issues. In partnership with the IPRC and other local organizations, JEAN held a day-long meeting. The Japanese agencies shared their tsunami debris cleanup and monitoring efforts; IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko spoke about the timelines and pathways of different debris types based on the IPRC Model; International Coastal Cleanup and government groups in Hawaii gave overviews of their activities. More in Meeting Agenda; KITV4 report.

Update on the Whereabouts of the Tsunami Debris

Honolulu, December 4, 2012
Twenty months after the Japan tsunami, little is known about the debris still floating in the North Pacific from the disaster. Fragmentary reports have come and are continuing to come from research vessels, small boats, and from sightings on coastlines, where debris washes ashore without warning. In this situation, numerical models, carefully tuned to use the little data available, continue to provide the main framework for tsunami debris planning and mitigation. Read more.

Giant Yellow Metal Container Washed up below Na`alehu

Honolulu, October 5, 2012
The IPRC Marine Debris Project was notified of possible tsunami debris from Japan washing up on the lava shore below Na`alehu. The giant container like object is metal, yellow, about 12 feet tall and 20 feet wide and could possibly be a pontoon for a floating dock. It was discovered Oct. 3 on state property, within the wash of the waves. Hikers came across the possible tsunami debris along the shore makai of Na`alehu, on the uninhabited Ka`u Coast. Read more.

Tracking Tsunami Flotsam

Honolulu, October 1, 2012
The 5 Gyres Institute and the Algalita Marine Research Institute conducted a sailing expedition that left Japan on June 10, 2012, and sailed through the area where, 15 months after the catastrophe, the IPRC model predicted flotsam from the Japanese tsunami would be concentrated. The debris that was found, for instance parts of a crushed fishing boat and piece of a traditional tatami mat, fits the model's low-windage profile, indicating that much of the debris hasn’t made it across the ocean yet. Read more.

Asahi Crate Washes up on Oahu’s Windward Shore

Honolulu, Sept. 30, 2012
HawaiiNewsNow reports that beach goers found an Asahi Beer crate on Bellows Beach. The crate is believed to be from the March 11, 2011, tsunami. The latest version of the IPRC Climate model was shown during the news cast, indicating that debris from the tsunami could be arriving on Hawaii east-facing shores any time now. Read more.

Japan Tsunami Debris Is Coming to Hawaii

Honolulu, September 21, 2012
When a blue box with the name of a Japanese company destroyed during the March 2011 tsunami was found near Sea Life Park on Oahu, Lisa Kubota of HawaiiNewsNow interviewed Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner. The scientists stated the box could be from the tsunami, as their higher windage version of the IPRC tsunami debris model shows the front edge of the tsunami debris arriving in Hawaii. Read more. Shortly afterwards, fishermen spotted a Japanese dock floating along the east-facing shore of Molokai. Read more.

Marine Debris from the March 11, 2011, Tsunami
One Year After the Disaster

Honolulu, March 9, 2012
On the first anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, IPRC’s Senior Scientist Nikolai Maximenko speaks about the current status of the tsunami debris that the earthquake generated. To view high-resolution mp4 video. To view Powerpoint slides. The IPRC gives a "Special Thank You" to Eric Grabowski, Videographer and Editor, and to the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education for creating this production. Permission is granted for non-commercial use with credit to the IPRC.

Ocean Conservancy's Japanese Tsunami Debris Webinar

Honolulu, February 28, 2012
On the upcoming anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Ocean Conservancy hosted a webinar with IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Ruth Yender, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Coordinator. They shared the latest findings on the tsunami debris. Following the webinar, Maximenko and Jan Hafner held a press conference in which Maximenko updated the press on the findings presented in the webinar. More in KHNO2, KITV, HawaiiNewsNow, Star-Advertiser. Listen to webinar.

BBC Features the Tsunami-Debris-Modeling Work by IPRC’s Maximenko and Hafner

Honolulu, February 22, 2012
At this week’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in Salt Lake City, Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner gave an update of their modeling results on the tsunami debris field. The work and the animation of their model showing how the Japanese tsunami debris field has spread since March 2011 is featured on BBC News. Read more.

Action of Japan to the drifting matters washed out by the March 11 Earthquake (so-called ‘3.11 Tsunami Debris’)

The tsunami triggered by the March 11 Earthquake washed out houses, containers, etc. from the land, and ripped offshore items such as fishery vessels, oyster beds, and other fishing gears, etc. loose. Some of these items have sunken, others are still drifting.

To read about the actions taken by the Government of Japan go to their Kantei Website.

The Taskforce for Nowcast and Forecast of the 3.11 Tsunami Debris Location Meets at the IPRC

Honolulu, February 21, 2012
Japanese scientists and governmental representatives met with IPRC’s Tsunami Project Team on February 9 to exchange the latest information about efforts in locating the now widely dispersed tsunami debris. The mission of the task force is to identify the locations of the drifting matter washed into the ocean during the March 11 tsunami by using cutting-edge data assimilation techniques together with the best available ocean, atmosphere, and climate models, and to confirm these locations with satellite imagery and with observational reports. The task force, working under the umbrella of Japanese governmental organizations, is looking into cooperating with other governments on this project, in particular, with the United States. Read more.

Clearing Up Misunderstandings about Tsunami Debris on Course to North American West Coast

Honolulu, February 16, 2012
With the lack of satisfactory observations, some reports in the media have greatly exaggerated the amount and type of debris from the March 11, 2011, tsunami floating toward the North American West Coast. We will try to clear up a few misunderstandings and misperceptions. Read more.

Japanese Fisheries High School Searches for Tsunami Debris

Honolulu, February 13, 2012
A Japan-U.S. joint project is under way across the Pacific to monitor the paths of debris swept into the sea in the aftermath of the huge tsunami that followed on the heels of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. In September last year, Prof. Shigeru Fujieda of Kagoshima University's Faculty of Fisheries asked domestic fisheries high schools to cooperate in gathering data on tsunami debris after receiving a request from Nikolai Maximenko, a senior researcher of the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii. Read more in the Daily Yomiuri.

Tsunami Debris Survey Launched Northwest of Midway

Honolulu, January 25, 2012
The March 11, 2011, earthquake northeast of Japan and the impact of subsequent tsunami wave on the Tohoku coastline produced millions of tons of debris. A large amount of the debris was released into the ocean. Under the influence of winds and currents, floating debris is dispersing over a large area and drifting eastward; it is predicted to reach Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States within the coming two years. In order to obtain some certainty about the model predictions, an expedition was made to survey the ocean northwest of Midway during December. Read more about the survey.

Tsunami Debris Exploration Uncovers New Theories, More Questions

January 18, 2012
Nikolai Maximenko was interviewed by KITV 4 regarding findings by residents on Molokai, who thought they had spotted tsunami debris. Maximenko took this opportunity to review the various sightings of actual debris from the tsunami and to describe the recent expedition in search of such debris northwest of Midway. Listen and read more.


Tsunami Debris Washes Ashore on the Olympic Peninsula?

December 15, 2011
Carried by ocean currents and winds, tsunami debris is expected to drift across the North Pacific from Japan toward the Northwest Coast of North America. The speed with which it drifts depends on its shape and composition. If the item is light and sticks out of water, it will drift much faster across the Pacific. The drum that washed on the shores of the Olympic Peninsula is such a light object; the part that sticks out of the water acts like a sail, and the wind can push it much more quickly than heavier objects. Researchers on the West Coast are now in the same position that our team has been for a while: verifying that the debris that has been found is indeed tsunami debris. Read more by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner. Read story in news.

Mitigating the Impact of Tsunami Debris on Coastlines

Workshop on November 14, 2011
The March 11, 2011, tsunami in Japan swept tons of debris into the ocean. Visible during the first weeks as yellow mats of complex composition, the debris quickly drifted offshore, dispersed and became invisible to existing observing systems. Predictions of ocean models have been confirmed by recent direct observations, which showed the edge of the debris field at the end of September only 300 miles northwest from Midway. The workshop focused on the necessity and feasibility of mitigating the impact of the debris on coastlines by using available knowledge, technologies, and resources. For the program and to see the presentations (mostly PDFs) click here; For the Audio-Video Webex recording click here. Picked up in the news by The Mainichi Daily News.

Tsunami Trash Adrift to Hawaii

November 3, 2011
Nikolai Maximenko was interviewed by Dan Cooke, the weather and news anchor for Hawaii News Now, about his computer-model-based prediction of where the debris from the tsunami is headed. As this debris may greatly impact Hawaii,Cooke has begun a series called "Tsunami Trash Adrift to Hawaii," which will “continue to monitor the tsunami trash as it approaches our islands, and let you know about plans to tackle the problem as they develop.” Listen to the news cast.

Russian Ship Spots Tsunami Debris

(IPRC press release)
October 14, 2011
On September 22 during its homeward voyage from Honolulu to Vladivostok, the Russian Sail Training Ship Pallada encountered debris from the great Japan tsunami, including a small boat with the Fukujima prefecture marking. It was found at the outer edge of the debris field of the computer model of ocean currents developed by IPRC’s Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner. As the Pallada continued on, more debris was seen, validating the model. Read press release.

Asking Ships to Report Any Sightings of Tsunami Debris

September 16, 2011
In the wake of Nikolai Maximenko’s and Jan Hafner’s meeting with Captain Sviridenko of the Russian Tall Ship STS Pallada to be on the look-out for any debris from Japan's tsunami, Hafner was interviewed by KITV4 about any knowledge of the whereabouts of the debris. To help in efforts to track the debris, the scientists need to validate their models' projections of the debris field and are asking ships in the North Pacific to report to them on what they see, and if possible take samples.

Oceanic Pathways of Tsunami Debris

April 7, 2011
The huge tsunami triggered by the 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake destroyed coastal towns near Sendai in Japan, washing such things as houses and cars into the ocean. Based on a model derived from past trajectories of drifting buoys, projections of where this debris might head over the next 5 to 6 years have been made by Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa. More at CNN, Hawaii News Now, Star-Advertiser, and Asahi Shimbun. For animation click image.

Debris from Japan's Tsunami
to Hit Hawaii’s Shores in 18 Months

March 18, 2011
The waves triggered by the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake destroyed several coastal towns around Sendai, Japan, and carried all sorts of debris, including cars and whole houses, into the ocean. IPRC's Nikolai Maximenko, who has been studying and modeling ocean currents and where currents transport floating materials, was interviewed about the path that the debris from the tsunami might take and when it might hit Hawaii’s shores. More on KITV News.