Cannon Beach artist Steve McLeod has seen his share of garbage during his daily beachcombing expeditions, but lately, debris featuring Asian markings has caught his attention.

“It’s about the right timeframe for Japan tsunami debris to start washing up in larger numbers,” he said.

McLeod has collected several of pieces, and they include a wide range of items, some easily identifiable, others posing new questions: soft drink bottles, magazine fragments, refrigeration coverings and gas cans.

Two items in particular have piqued McLeod’s curiosity.

One is a short length of wood with intricate scrollwork. While there are no visible markings, McLeod wonders if it is from an Asian temple.

“It seems to fit the description of something along those lines,” he said. “I would hope that if that’s what it is, it receives the reverence that it’s due.”

Another is a petrified pigeon, encased in what appears to be blue paint. Around the pigeon’s leg is a band with Asian markings.

“I don’t know if the markings are Japanese, Chinese or possibly Korean,” McLeod said. “But he’s certainly had a long journey.”

McLeod’s findings would seem to be in step with other recent debris discoveries.

An 18-foot boat with Asian writing washed ashore in Long Beach on March 22.

On March 27, a 17-foot arch with similar Asian markings was found at the North Cove in Seaside.

As of yet, nothing of that nature has found its way to the shores of Cannon Beach.

“There’s been nothing significant in the last few days,” said Mark See, the city’s public works director.

The city has prepared an email list of volunteers who are interested in cleaning up the beach when city crews alert them to the need.

Because of the amount of debris in the ocean from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects portions of it to reach U.S. and Canadian shores over the next several years.

“The government of Japan estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean and that about 70 percent sank shortly after,” said Keeley Belva, public relations officer for NOAA.

“The remaining 1.5 million tons dispersed far across the North Pacific Ocean--an area roughly three times the size of the lower 48 states. It's difficult to tell how much of the debris remains more than two years later,” she said.

NOAA continues to monitor debris movement across the Pacific.

“NOAA is collecting at-sea observation data from aircraft, satellite and vessels,” Belva said. “We are also modeling the debris movement and monitoring baseline debris accumulations.”

Still, NOAA wants beachgoers to keep in mind that while large portions of tsunami debris remain at sea, not everything found on shore is from the disaster in Japan. Items from Asia, such as buoys or litter, often wash up on the Pacific coast, according to the NOAA website.

When it comes to reporting larger pieces of debris – from Japan or otherwise – people are asked to call 2-1-1, a special number set up for just that purpose.

In the meantime, McLeod hopes that if the items he’s found are indeed from that terrible event, they will serve as an important reminder.

“Hopefully, they will help people remember,” he said. “If something terrible like that happened here, I would want people across the ocean to think of us.”

Several resources are available for answering questions about the handling of potential Japan tsunami debris. Each includes information on safety issues, identifying types of debris, and how to get involved in clean-up programs.

They include:

• Cannon Beach’s website, at www.ci.cannonbeach.or.us/News/tsunamidebris.

• The Oregon State Parks website at www.oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS/Pages/tsunami_debris.

• The NOAA website at www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris.

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