Marine Life Flourishes In Underwater Fukushima Debris

Five years since the devastating Japan earthquake prompted a tsunami that washed tons of refuse into the Pacific Ocean, ocean creatures in and around that underwater wreckage is burgeoning.

Life out of the debris
Life out of the debris

TOKYO â€" A wide variety of marine life is making its home around underwater debris left after 2011's Great East Japan Earthquake caused a tsunami.

More than 10 times as many marine organisms live in the areas with debris as in areas without it, according to research conducted off the Sanriku Coast of the Pacific Ocean by organizations such as the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

Ragworms, Gammaridea crustaceans and other marine organisms have made their homes there, and channel rockfish, conger and snow crabs come to prey on them. These areas may become fishing grounds in the future, according to JAMSTEC.

The research was conducted between March 2012 to November 2015, and examined the seabed at a depth of about 120 meters (394 feet) to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), and at a distance of 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) to 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) off the Sanriku Coast.

Analyzing pictures taken by a robot, researchers found an average of 114 creatures per square meter around the debris, which includes fishing gear, pieces of concrete and scrap wood. This was 14 times more than in the areas just five meters away from the debris, and 25 times more than in areas 10 meters away.

Sendai, Japan, just after the 2011 earthquake â€" Photo: Tex Texin

Researchers said they found ragworms, which tend to attach themselves to reefs, on the debris, while Gammaridea crustaceans were using it to conceal themselves.

The Environment Ministry estimated that about 5 million tons of scraps and materials washed into the sea after the tsunami following the earthquake. About 3.3 million tons of that accumulated on the seabed off the Sanriku Coast.

Debris that could obstruct the navigation of ships has been removed, but a large amount still remains in the seabed valleys.

According to JAMSTEC, the volume of debris piled up in the valleys is more than three times the amount accumulated on flat seabed areas. The number of marine organisms may be surging around debris in the valleys.

JAMSTEC said there is no major difference in the number of organisms found around different kinds of refuse, including metals and plastic. It is currently compiling a map to depict the distribution of debris on the seabed, aiming to complete it within several years. It also plans to conduct a survey on the volume of organisms around the debris and reflect the data on the map in the future.

"Confirming the situation of organisms on the seabed after the 2011 disaster will surely be useful for fishing in the future," says senior JAMSTEC researcher Katsunori Fujikura.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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