‘Ghost Ship’ from Japan Tsunami Floating Off Canada’s Coast

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Department of National Defence / Reuters

Canada's Department of National Defence photograph shows a Japanese fishing vessel, which is believed have been lost as a result of last year's tsunami, that was sighted drifting off the coast of British Columbia.

Experts knew debris from the Japanese tsunami would meander toward North America’s west coast at some point. While smaller bits and pieces started hitting the shores of Western Canada this year, the first major item, a 150-foot squid-fishing boat, now bobs in the Pacific Ocean about 120 nautical miles off British Columbia’s north coast, near Haida Gwaii island.

The ship has drifted across the Pacific for about a year, ever since the March 2011 tsunami in Japan sent it out to the open ocean. Now beat up, but still afloat, the “ghost ship” creeps closer to the shore while officials remain uncertain of what to do with it, having now watched it since it was discovered by an aircraft conducting routine surveillance last week.

(PHOTOS: After the Storm: Post-Tsunami Japan)

The battered, empty ship was confirmed as a tsunami victim after the vessel’s hull numbers were traced to the ship’s owner in Japan. But who wants it now? The cost to tow it into a British-Columbia port certainly isn’t worth it for anyone, let alone the steep price to return it to Japan.

For now, the ship continues to float in the ocean. While officials warn boaters to stay away from the obstruction and ponder what to do with the hunk of garbage, the ship symbolizes a larger issue: an expected onslaught of tsunami debris.

With the first wave of items reaching shores just now, experts believe the frequency of items reaching Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state will only increase throughout this year, leaving a host of people to deliberate about what is important enough to ship back to Japan and what to do when something is simply just garbage.

PHOTOS: Japanese Tsunami Anniversary Photographs