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Floating Japanese Dock Washes up on Oregon Beach, Sparks Invasive-Species Fears

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A 66-foot-long floating dock washed up on an Oregon beach earlier this month, encrusted with barnacles and other sea animals that could pose an invasive-species danger to U.S. shores.

The dock was carrying “hundreds of millions of individual organisms, including a tiny species of crab, a species of algae, and a little starfish all native to Japan that have scientists worried if they get a chance to spread out on the U.S. West Coast,” the Associated Press reported.

“It’s 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and seven feet tall, covered with reinforced concrete,” Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, told The Los Angeles Times.

The dock, kept afloat by Styrofoam, is part of the one- to two million tons of debris from the March 2011 tsunami that leveled parts of northern Japan. Debris had been predicted to arrive on Turtle Island’s west coast starting in 2014.

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The dock traveled 5,000 miles across the ocean, joining several other items that have made its way across the Pacific since the disaster. Flotsam so far includes a Harley Davidson motorcycle that reached Haida Gwaii territory in British Columbia in a shipping crate; a “ghost ship” fishing vessel that the U.S. Coast Guard sunk off the coast of Alaska in April, and various and sundry pieces of miscellaneous debris, such as a soccer ball.

Aomori Prefecture is the dock’s owner, and it is not interested in having the dock back, Japanese Deputy Consul General Hirofumi Murabayashi told The Los Angeles Times. It was one of four boxcar-sized docks ripped from their moorings in Misawa fishing ports by the tsunami, according to the AP.

Volunteers scrubbed the marine organisms off the dock and sterilized it with torches on Thursday, Havel told the AP, so as to avoid introducing unfamiliar species to this continent. They took off one and a half tons of material, burying it above the high-tide mark, he said.

Much of the tsunami debris is expected to follow the currents and join the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which actually dwarfs the tsunami debris, experts say.