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Suspected tsunami debris spotted off Kona coast

<p>Photo by DENNIS CINTAS</p><p>A boat, presumed to be a Japanese skiff, was found four miles off Honokohau Harbor Tuesday morning.</p>


Stephens Media

Fishermen off Honokohau Harbor found what they believe to be debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan.

“We found this little Japanese skiff,” Capt. Dennis Cintas said Tuesday afternoon.

The 18- to 20-foot-long craft was upside-down in the water about four miles out from the harbor. Cintas said Capt. Kenny Fogarty of Makana Lani charters was the first to spot the boat, which was attracting ahi, ono and mahimahi. Cintas said his was the fourth boat to arrive, and by midday, about 20 fishing boats were in the area.

Cintas couldn’t see any writing or other markings on the boat, which was covered with barnacles, but he did notice the bow “flared out considerably” in a fashion he recognized as a typical Japanese design. He said another fisherman was intending to tow the found boat into the harbor and salvage it, something Cintas and other captains advised against. Cintas said he was worried the boat might be housing invasive species.

Contacted just before noon Tuesday, Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward said no one had reported the find. But by 1 p.m., someone had filed a report, Ward said. DLNR officials have asked Hawaii residents to report any suspected debris from the tsunami.

Boater Randy Llanes spoke with DLNR employees about the boat, Ward said, before bringing it to the harbor, where it will be stored pending contact with the Japanese consulate in Honolulu.

“While still at sea (Llanes) spoke by phone with DLNR’s aquatic invasives specialist Jonathan Blodgett, who determined that Llanes had already scraped off blue mussels well out at sea from the boat, leaving only typical gooseneck barnacles that are common pelagic species and not harmful to native marine species,” Ward said in an email to Stephens Media late Tuesday. Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation staff “will photodocument any identification marks and marine growth once he gets back to the harbor.”

Japanese government officials will track the owner using vessel registration numbers to make sure the registered owner doesn’t want the skiff back, Ward added.

“Please show aloha and respect to the people of Japan, and the regions which suffered devastation from the 2011 tsunami,” she said, reiterating the department’s request to be notified of found debris. “The items may be all someone has left, and let’s first confirm they don’t want it back.”

DLNR officials advise people not to try to move derelict boats found at sea, because once someone “attaches to take possession of a derelict vessel they are then responsible for the vessel.”

If someone cannot tell for sure what the item is and it looks hazardous, DLNR warns against touching the item.

DLNR officials also expressed concern about possible invasive species.

“Most marine debris will have marine life of some kind growing on it,” DLNR said in its debris guide. “Potentially invasive species may be growing on items that were already in the ocean at their place of origin for some time before being lost at sea, such as docks, piers, vessels and other materials that were already in the water.”

DLNR officials ask people to call 587-0400 or email or to report findings of possible tsunami marine debris, particularly large quantities of debris, debris with living organisms on it, or large-sized debris (too large to remove by hand). DLNR is asking for photos of the debris, a description of the object and any organisms growing on it, the date and time the item was seen or found and contact information for the person who found the items.

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