Officials testing possible tsunami boat for invasive species

ILWACO, Wash. - Washington wildlife officials are testing samples taken from a 20-foot boat that could be debris from the Japanese tsunami to make sure it wasn't carrying invasive species or pathogens.

Ecology spokesman Curt Hart says the fiberglass boat was pulled from the beach Saturday and thoroughly cleaned at a maintenance service yard at Cape Disappointment State Park.

About 3,000 pounds of marine life was removed from the hull, state officials said.

The 20-foot boat, which was found on Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park, was covered with hundreds of gooseneck barnacles, typical of time in the open ocean.

"Most of the organisms that we have found appear to be fairly common to the Pacific Northwest," Washington State Fish and Wildlife Officer Carl Klein said Saturday during the cleanup of the hull.

Tests did come back negative for radioactivity.

The boat was found beached at the park Friday. Hart says state and federal officials are still trying to determine whether it is debris from the Japanese tsunami, and will likely know more next week. Objects found near the boat are marked with Japanese writing.

Hart says the boat will remain at the park for a week so the public can come see it, and already dozens of people have flocked to the beach for a glimpse. The boat eventually be taken to a landfill.

In the meantime, state and local agencies are working with the Japanese Consulate in Seattle.

In addition to the boat and debris, life jackets with Japanese writing have also been spotted along the beach. Authorities are warning onlookers not to touch anything.

"It's not unexpected. We've had over the years a number of things wash up on the beach. I think this is the first of what were going to start seeing and hopefully it doesn't come in one big shot," says Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson.

"We're going to have to handle this probably an item at a time," Curt Hart with the Washington State Department of Ecology said about more stuff like this possibly showing up along the Pacific Northwest coastline. "The problem with this is that with the tsunami, nobody can really tell us where, when and what is going to come ashore."

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and other members of Washington state's congressional delegation are trying to convince the federal government to come up with funding to pay for the clenaup of tsunami debris - so the state doesn't get stuck with the entire bill.

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