It's not the big chunks of debris that we've seen wash up along Alaska and the Pacific coasts in the months since the March 2011 tsunami, but conservationists are still worried about the large amounts of Styrofoam that has washed up along the Kenai Peninsula this summer.
There may be too much Styrofoam and not enough volunteers to clean it up before winter.
"As that Styrofoam freezes and gets weathered, it will break up into small pieces very quickly,” said Special Programs Coordinator at the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Patrick Chandler.
“Those small pieces of foam can be ingested by marine life because they're just about the size of the food they eat."
Chandler says he confirmed with Japanese officials that most of this debris is directly connected to the tsunami, and more debris could be on the way. CACS and the Gulf of Alaska Keepers are collaborating on debris cleanup this summer.
Chandler says it’s picked up 4 times the normal amount of Styrofoam that washes up on Gore Point Beach and other areas of the Kenai Peninsula.
NOAA allotted $50,000 for debris cleanup efforts last month.
“That's unacceptable, totally unacceptable for what we need to go after this," said Senator Mark Begich.
Begich is pressing the Obama Administration for $45-million he says will be needed to deal with the expected onslaught of debris washing ashore throughout Alaska.
"Because of budget constraints and limited funds for overall marine debris removal efforts, at this time we don't anticipate additional funding will be allocated to the states for tsunami debris-specific clean up,” said NOAA Communications Director Jana Goldman.
Senator Lisa Murkowski says she's worried about the impact the debris will have on landfills in coastal towns and communities.
"I have asked NOAA and the other federal agencies involved to come together with an action plan on how to deal with this tsunami debris,” said Murkowski.
The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies says not all of the debris they collect can be attributed to the tsunami. Some of it comes from containers that fall off cargo ships.