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Fishing pallet washed away by tsunami going back to Japan

Even the most basic of items found among tsunami debris on the B.C. coast can have sentimental value to their owners.
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Volunteers with some of the debris from the tsunami that they collected, including the fishing pallet at the front.

Even the most basic of items found among tsunami debris on the B.C. coast can have sentimental value to their owners.

A case in point is a plastic fishing pallet located in the Broken Group Islands earlier this year, part of the flow of material that has crossed the Pacific Ocean since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

A special effort is being made to return the pallet to its owner because of its connections to his past.

Writing on the pallet allowed it to be traced to a man in the hard-hit Minami Sanriku region of Japan.

He recognized it from pictures he was shown as a pallet that had been given to him by his father and he requested that it be returned.

That is happening thanks to the support of the Japan Love Project — an initiative to help Japan’s recovery from the 2011 disaster — Japan Airlines, the District of Ucluelet, the Ministry of Environment and others.

Hanako Yokota, of the Japan Love Project, will be taking the 34-kilogram pallet with her Monday as she flies to Japan.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving said it is a worthwhile effort. “We are pleased to participate in the return of this item to its original owner and are thankful it brings some comfort to his family in Japan,” Irving said in a statement.

Karla Robison, Ucluelet’s environmental and emergency service manager, said she hopes the pallet’s return “will bring peace, fond memories and inspiration to the owner, his family and the community he resides in.

“Perhaps the pallet can act as a memorial to remind each country of our strong bond across the ocean, the many lives affected by the tsunami, and to be prepared for emergencies,” she said in a statement.

An estimated five million tonnes of debris was swept into the sea by the tsunami.

Among the larger items, a 60-metre fishboat was seen off Haida Gwaii in 2012 and a boxed Harley-Davidson motorcycle reached shore there about a month later.

Even corpses and radioactive material were anticipated to be in the mix, but much less debris has materialized than was expected.

In April, a researcher at the University of Hawaii said the threat of huge amounts of debris coming east was over.

jwbell@timescolonist.com