Beachgoers urged to watch for soda-bottle shaped transponders

Anglers and beachgoers along the Pacific coast might find something other than fish or clams. They are being asked to watch for transponders released from Japan.

While recreational salmon fishing is over off the Washington coast, surf fishing remains opens. Also razor clam diggers are expected to begin the first dig of the season on Tuesday. The first opening includes digging from Long Beach to Copalis.

The floating instruments are about the size of a 2-liter soda bottle and were put in the ocean at different ports off Japan in 2011-12 after the earthquake and tsunami, according to a news release from Oregon State University. Researchers from Tattori University for Environmental Studies in Japan have been working with Oregon State University, Oregon Sea Gran, and NOAA Marine Debris Program on the project.

The goal of the project is to track the movement of debris via ocean currents and help determine the path and timing of the debris from the 2011 disaster. An estimated 1.5 million tons of debris washed out to sea and it is expected to continue drifting ashore along the U.S. West Coast for several years, Sam Chan, watershed health specialist with Oregon State University Extension and Oregon Sea Grant, said in the release.

He said the transponders are past the 30-month life of their batteries and are no longer communicating their location, Chan said. The only way to find out where they end up is to physically find them and report their location.

“These bottles contain transmitters and they are not a hazardous device,” Chan said in the release. “If you find something that looks like an orange soda bottle with a short antenna, we’d certainly like your help in turning it in.”

One of the first transponders discovered in the Northwest was found near Arch Cape, Oregon, in March 2013, about 19 months after it was set adrift.

Another was found near the Haida Heritage Site, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands – the same location where a Harley-Davidson motorcycle floated up on a beach in a shipping container long after being swept out to sea in Japan by the tsunami.