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Photos: Japan tsunami debris reaches Alaska

Updated 1718 GMT (0118 HKT) May 23, 2012
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It's been more than a year since a massive quake devastated northeast Japan, and the debris believed to be from that disaster is now washing up more than 4,000 miles away in Alaska. The Styrofoam that's washing up breaks into little pieces and the wildlife, thinking it is food, will eat it -- causing a negative chain reaction. "The little fish are going to eat some of this stuff and not get the nutrition they need," explained Bill Lucey of the Yakutat Salmon Board. "So they're not going to grow that fast, so they're either going to die or get eaten by predators more readily or they just won't be able to compete in the natural world as well." Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
Much of the debris can be found on remote islands like Montague Island in the Prince William Sound, which is accessible only by boat or plane. Chris Pallister, who runs a non-profit dedicated to keeping Alaska's coastline clean, says he's never seen some kinds of this of debris before, including this yellow urethane spray building foam insulation. "Acres of these things (were) just stacked up before the tsunami (in Japan)," Pallister said of the insulation. "Those yards are empty now and this is where they all are." Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
Bald eagles are part of the delicate ecosystem in Yakutat, and their habitat may be affected by the trash and chemicals reaching Alaska's southeastern shores. John Torigoe/CNN
Debris litters a stunning remote beach on the Alaskan coast called Black Sand Spit at the mouth of the Dangerous River near Yakutat. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
Japanese writing marks the side of a green bucket found on Montague Island. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
More than 250 miles inland from Montague Island lies the remote Alaskan town of Yakutat. This coastal town has just 650 residents but it is home to a booming fishing industry. Large catch, like this halibut, comes in not far from where tsunami debris is washing up on shore and is processed at Yakutat Seafood Company for quick delivery to markets and restaurants all over the country. Alaska's fishing industry is trying to reassure consumers across the country that its product is safe to eat. Greg Indreland, the owner of Yakutat Seafood, says he's not worried now -- but he fears what toxic substances may be lurking in the Pacific and headed his way. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
Chris Pallister braves the elements on Montague Island to survey debris for the Marine Conservation Alliance. He said the yellow urethane spray building foam insulation, which came from stockyards and from crushed structures in Japan, started showing up in January. "We just never got much of that before, but if you walk up and down this beach you see big chunks," he said. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
Japanese officials estimate up to 70% of the tsunami wreckage has sunk, but the rest, ranging in size from children's toys to a squid trawler sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard off Alaska in April, has been turning up off the coasts of the United States and Canada for more than a month. There are concerns that this trash could be tainted by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the March 2011 quake. Tests on the first wave of tsunami debris have shown no abnormal levels of radiation. Still, much of it is toxic and potentially hazardous to the environment along the rugged Alaska coastline. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN
A plastic float bearing the Japanese name "Musashi" is among the rubbish on Montague Island. Sara Weisfeldt/CNN