Northwest fishermen don't want to reel in tsunami debris

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on April 6, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 6 at 6:21 PM

SEATTLE -- With a field of debris from last year's tsunami in Japan heading for the U.S., Seattle fishermen worry about running their boats right into it.

"It scares you when you hit something with a boat," says Hunter "Catfish" Cranz, owner of the Polar Prince. 

Based in Valdez, Alaska, the 72-foot fishing boat mostly goes after Copper River salmon, but spends much of the winter in Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal. He says everybody's talking about the coming debris field. 

"Not good stuff for navigation," Cranz says.

While much of the debris will break up and sink, experts know some will make it the whole way to the West Coast -- and some if it might be large. This week, the U.S. Coast Guard sank a 150-foot squid fishing boat off the coast of Canada because of the navigation threat it posed to other fishermen and freight liners.

The Coast Guard predicts objects like shipping containers could float just below the surface of the ocean. Their corners are capable of puncturing the hull of a fishing boat or yacht. Drums full of fuel, propane tanks and other hazards could be in the paths of oncoming vessels, not to mention vast quantities of wood.

A UW professor believes of the debris expected to actually reach land, the smaller pieces will drift to Washington. Larger pieces will go north and south with the ocean currents.

According to Cranz, some fishermen he's talked to are also concerned about the possibility of debris being radioactive.

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