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Tsunami debris could persist for years

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It’s been a year and a half since a devastating tsunami struck Japan, sending tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

And one oceanographer says we could keep seeing the floating remnants for quite some time.

Dr. Richard Thomson with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans shared his thoughts during a panel discussion at the Vancouver Aquarium Tuesday night.

Thomson says the Pacific Ocean currents between BC and Japan move debris at roughly 10 kilometres a day but they move in anything but a straight line.

He says Vancouver and Victoria likely won’t see any debris because they both have outflowing currents like the Fraser River and Juan De Fuca Strait.

That means it could continue circling the ocean for years, some even making its way back to Japan.

“Some of this stuff that’s in the ocean now, in doing that gyre, if it stays in that subtropical gyre, it takes around five to six years to do one cycle so if you can imagine something that’s gone around once to Japan, come back again, keep going around and around like a washing machine,” says Thomson.

“There’s no reason why something can’t stay in the ocean if it doesn’t get blown ashore, carried to shore or disintegrate and fall to the bottom. It can just keep cycling around, things to and it could come back, again.”

But he does expect most of the debris to sink to the ocean floor.