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NOAA warns Californians not to touch washed-ashore container debris

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the NOAA have warned beachgoers and tourists not to touch any debris they find along the coastline, but to report it promptly. On Tuesday March 19th they posted a picture of a 500lbs cotton bale that had washed ashore. Some weeks ago it was reported that an APL containership had lost boxes along the coastline.

Lisa Wooninck, Superintendent for the marine sanctuary wrote, ‘Please report and do not disturb any cotton bales that have washed up recently on local beaches.’ She said that ‘it is best that the bales remain covered and banded until cleanup contractors can safely remove them from the beach’.

Debris first started washing up on beaches around San Simeon at the beginning of March. NOAA reported on March 4th that people had spotted cotton bales and empty wine barrels on the San Luis Obispo County beaches. Since then, more cotton bales have been reported from Big Sur Coast to Point Sal, including the Northern Channel Islands, and affecting Monterey Bay.

The debris is being linked to the 7,800-teu APL containership President Eisenhower, which reported to the US Coast Guard that it lost containers overboard on February 6th. The boxes were lost when the vessel was about 15 miles offshore, said by the USCG to have been 64nm southwest of Monterey. About 24 containers were lost, with no hazardous materials involved. The ship continued its trip to the Port of Oakland.

A USCG plane observed a container in the water on February 9 near the southern reaches of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Modelling indicated that the drift estimate was a downcoast movement. Nevertheless the USCG warned the staff at NOAA and the sanctuary.