Marine Debris Handling Guidelines
General Guidance

Be safe: Use common sense and follow general safety guidelines. If you don't know what an item is, don't touch it. If it appears hazardous, contact appropriate authorities.

Marine debris items or significant accumulations potentially related to the tsunami can also be reported to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov with as much information as possible (including its location, the date and time you found it, photos, and any relevant descriptions). It is important to remember that not all debris found on U.S. shorelines is from Japan, so please use your discretion when reporting items.

West Coast states have established toll-free phone lines for reporting all categories of marine debris, including potentially hazardous debris:

Oregon: Call 2-1-1
Washington: Call 1-855-WACOAST (Note: The 1-855-WACOAST state hotline set up for reporting marine debris will be taken off-line at 5 p.m. Dec. 31, 2013. People will still be able to report hazardous marine debris – such as gas cans, cylinders and oil drums – 24 hours a day to 1-800-OILS-911.)
Hawaii: Call (808) 587-0400

Guidelines by Debris Type

Litter and other typical marine debris items
Examples: Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, buoys, Styrofoam
Common marine debris types may vary by location. If safe and practical, we encourage you to remove the debris and recycle as much of it as possible.

Potential hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
Examples: Oil or chemical drums, gas cans, propane tanks.
Contact your local authorities (a 911 call), a state emergency response or environmental health agency, and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802 to report the item with as much information as possible. Do not touch the item or attempt to move it. Do not contact DisasterDebris@noaa.gov for response assistance.

Derelict vessel or other large debris item
Examples: Adrift fishing boat, shipping containers
Contact your local authorities (a 911 call) and a state emergency response or environmental health agency to report the item. If the debris item is a potential hazard to navigation, immediately radio your nearest US Coast Guard Sector Command Center via VHF-FM Ch. 16 or 2182 MHz or notify the US Coast Guard Pacific Area Command at 510-437-3701. Do not attempt to move or remove the item.

Mementos or possessions
Examples: Items with unique identifiers, names, or markings
If an item can 1) be traced back to an individual or group and 2) has personal or monetary value, it should be reported to DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. NOAA will work with local Japan consulates to determine if they can help identify its owner.

Remains
It is highly unlikely that remains from the tsunami will reach the United States, but if you see human remains anywhere, contact local authorities (a 911 call) and report what you observed. Do not touch or attempt to move them.

Unknown item
If you don't know what it is, don't touch it. If you believe it is a hazardous item, contact local authorities and report it.

a boat covered in marine growth.
A boat washes up in Ocean Shores, WA. Credit: WA Ecy

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