12/19/2012 12:11 pm ET

Japanese Tsunami Debris Reportedly Sighted Near Washington's Olympic National Park

Federal, state and tribal officials in Washington State are working to reach a huge piece of debris they believe could be from last year's Japanese tsunami that has washed ashore in a remote section of Olympic National Park on the northwest Washington coast, reports the Associated Press.

The massive dock was first spotted on Dec. 14 by fishermen, who saw it floating 16 nautical miles northwest of Grays Harbor, according to Fox 12. The dock wasn't spotted again until Tuesday afternoon when a Coast Guard helicopter crew located it.

"They were out in challenging conditions looking for a needle in a haystack, and they found it," Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement, reports NBC News.

The object appears similar to a dock that turned up in Oregon in June. The 165 tons of concrete and steel, measuring 66 feet long, 19 feet wide and 7 feet high floated ashore on Agate Beach, a mile north of Newport, in Oregon.

Now that the dock has been found, the main concern is invasive species.

Volunteers scrubbed and sterilized the Oregon dock found this summer in an attempt to stop the possible spread of the 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 made the 5,000 mile trip, according to the Associated Press.

John Chapman, a research scientist at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center, said about the Oregon dock, "This is a very clear threat." He told AP, "It's incredibly difficult to predict what will happen next."

On Tuesday, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed a state plan to deal with Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) washing ashore.

Japan estimates the tsunami swept about five million tons of debris into the Pacific, and that two-thirds of that sank quickly, but some of the remaining 1.5 million tons headed for the U.S. West Coast.

Through Last Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it had received 1,432 debris reports, of which 17 were confirmed as definite tsunami debris.



Tsunami Debris