No plans to stop 'ghost ship' headed for B.C. coast
As a derelict Japanese fishing vessel lost after last year's tsunami approaches B.C.'s coast faster than anticipated, no efforts have been made to stop it.
The internationally dubbed "ghost ship" was spotted earlier this week drifting 150 nautical miles off the southern coast of Haida Gwaii by a flight crew doing a routine aerial patrol, according to Transport Canada. The Japanese Coast Guard has confirmed that the boat's owner reported it missing after the March 11, 2011 tsunami.
Both Transport Canada and the Department of National Defence confirm no one is on board the ship.
Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk, who lives thousands of kilometres south of Haida Gwaii where the vessel is headed, says the ship's sighting has caught his attention.
"It's a bit of a wake-up call. All the studies show that the bulk of what could come our way is still a year or two away, but it's a sign the timetable may be a little ahead of what everyone expects," Schmunk told CTV News.
He believes his community has already seen tsunami-related debris.
"We don't know if it's directly associated with the tsunami, but definitely the incidents of increase of Japanese debris continues to hit our beaches here locally," Schmunk said.
Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu says Transport Canada, Environment Canada, the Department of National Defence and the Department of Fisheries and Ocean are all monitoring the vessel closely.
"There are currently no reports of marine pollution from the vessel," Liu added.
Oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer says the boat is an excellent case study for how a small island of material swept to sea by the tsunami should be handled.
"It's a precedent for getting all of our networks and all the institutions together to co-operate and get it right," Ebbesmeyer said.
But environmentalists warn more resources are needed to do that.
"All the agencies in Canada are understaffed and underfunded. So they're having trouble dealing with the stuff they have to deal with on a regular basis," Christianne Wilhelmson of the Georgia Straight Alliance said.
The coast guard warned mariners about the navigational risk on Wednesday, though it didn't notify the broader public.
"Not only do the agencies have to be talking to each other, they also need to talk to communities, prepare communities for this stuff arriving on the shore," Wilhelmson said.
Where and when the fishing ship could make landfall still isn't clear.
"At this time the vessel is quite far from shore and we are just monitoring to see where it goes," Liu said.
The Japanese owner of the vessel has been notified about its whereabouts.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Penny Daflos