Tsunami Ghost Ship Spotted off Haida Gwaii Territory

An abandoned fishing vessel, part of the debris floating across the Pacific Ocean from the Japan tsunami of March 11, 2011, is just 150 nautical miles off of Haida Gwaii, the traditional territory of the Haida Nation.

A fishing vessel swept out to sea off Japan in last year’s post-earthquake tsunami has been spotted about 150 nautical miles off of the islands making up Haida Gwaii territory in British Columbia.

This “ghost ship” heralds an earlier-than-anticipated arrival for the debris, which experts have been predicting to make landfall on our side of the Pacific in 2013 and ’14.

"The early indication is that things sitting higher up on the water could potentially move across the Pacific Ocean quicker than we had originally thought," Nancy Wallace, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, told Reuters. "Those higher-wind, quicker moving items may actually be onshore much sooner—pretty much now."

Robert Mills, Chief Council of the Skidegate Band of the Haida Nation, told Indian Country Today Media Network that members of the auxiliary coast guard, a mix of Haida and non-Haida people, had been planning to inspect the ship.

Ideally, he said, they would be able to tow it to shore if it is indeed headed straight for their lands, or in the best-case scenario, start it up and drive it in.

“But there’s always that possibility that it could be brought in by the currents, and then all it takes is the tide and the wind,” he said, to crash it against the rocks. This could release fuel, “something that we as Haidas don’t want but also something that Haida residents don’t want.”

Transport Canada spokeswoman Sau Sau Liu told The Province that the ship is being monitored by five agencies.

“The Department of National Defence confirms that close visual aerial inspection and hails to the ship indicate there is no one on board,” Liu told the newspaper. “The owner of the vessel has been contacted and made aware of its location.”