Haida Band Chief Councilor Wants International Tsunami Debris Cleanup

A Haida Gwaii chief councilor would like to see an international cleanup effort in the debris field coming from the Japanese tsunami.

Rather than wait for the tsunami debris floating across the Pacific from Japan, a Haida First Nation band leader is suggesting that an international team be marshaled to go out and meet it.

“First and foremost as Haidas we’re concerned about that big mess coming in from Japan,” said Robert Mills, chief councilor of the Skidegate Band of the Haida Nation, one of two aboriginal communities on the Haida Gwaii islands. “From what I understand it’s quite large, and we would prefer if there was some kind of international salvage operation to go out and clean it up, rather than waiting for it just to wash up on shore.”

He was responding to reports of a so-called ghost ship that’s ahead of the huge debris field floating toward Canada’s shores from the March 11, 2011, tsunami caused by a massive earthquake in northern Japan.

The 9.0-magnitude quake caused a 75-foot-high tidal wave that killed 16,000 people, Reuters said, with 3,000 still unaccounted for. The debris field includes refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, roofs and fishing nets, according to Reuters.

The empty fishing vessel, spotted on Sunday by Canadian authorities, was about 150 nautical miles off Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. It was too early to tell where it would hit, but Mills told Indian Country Today Media Network that he hoped it too would be intercepted.

Once the field comes closer the Haida may “make an appeal to international bodies to send ships out and start cleaning up rather than waiting for it to wash up to our shores,” Mills said. “It might miss us, but it inevitably would end up on somebody’s shore.”

There are two Haida communities on Haida Gwaii. The ghost ship was spotted off the south shore of the archipelago’s main island. Debris may already be reaching Pacific shores, according to reports.

“It’s either going to end up in Canada or the shoreline in the U.S., or the currents might even take it back down into the southern Pacific,” Mills said, adding that we might as well make an international effort to clean it up, “and do it while it’s at sea.”