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Originally published Monday, June 18, 2012 at 5:21 PM

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NOAA surveys Alaska beaches for tsunami debris

Government scientists are in the midst of a 10-day trip, surveying southeast Alaska beaches for debris from last year's deadly tsunami in Japan.

The Associated Press

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JUNEAU, Alaska —

Government scientists are in the midst of a 10-day trip, surveying southeast Alaska beaches for debris from last year's deadly tsunami in Japan.

While there have been several high-profile instances of debris from the tsunami reaching U.S. shores, groups that routinely clean ocean trash from Alaska beaches have reported a difference in the volume and type of debris they're seeing this year, leading them to believe more debris from the disaster has arrived.

A five-member team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is due back in Juneau on Sunday. NOAA's Jeep Rice said the hope is for the cruise to average four to six sites a day, with the team split into two crews. However, he said weather will be a factor, with many of the sites opening directly to the ocean and surf expected to limit activity some days. He said some sites also will be very difficult to walk along.

Some of those sites will be less than a kilometer, he said.

NOAA, in a news release, said all human-related marine debris will be counted and cataloged. The team plans to confer with marine debris experts on the West Coast about its findings, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.

Surveys of coastline farther north and west are planned for later this summer in Alaska. Rice said NOAA plans to pay particular attention to Kayak Island, located in the Gulf of Alaska, which he said was completely cleared of debris last summer, and any other sites that NOAA can confirm had been recently cleaned.

NOAA said tsunami debris surveys will be conducted periodically during the next couple years.

Rice characterized the current trip as a preliminary assessment to get a sense of what's arriving. Rice said the trip will help inform future cleanup efforts.

The team includes a NOAA contractor and University of Alaska student.

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