Many members of the Society have probably been wondering what scientists, and especially we oceanographers, can do to help Japan recover from the unprecedented damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake. This was the theme of the “Conference on Marine Pollution Associated with the Earthquake” that we held on April 14, 2011 at the University of Tokyo Faculty of Science Building 1. The conference was attended mainly by concerned members of the Oceanographic Society of Japan, and reports presented at the conference included observations of the marine pollution which followed the nuclear power accident and the results of simulations forecasting dispersal of radioactive materials in the ocean. With the awareness that such activities and information dissemination will continue to be needed, the conference obtained the consent of the 100 participants to continue these activities. The officers meeting held on the following day, April 15, shared this thinking, and a decision was made to create an “Earthquake Disaster Response Working Group.” This working group, in cooperation with Society research groups, will be involved in studies for earthquake disaster response and in disseminating information to the general public. To share this resolve with all members and to communicate it widely to the public, it has been decided to issue a statement by the Society’s president. The entire text is given here. Other organizations, including the Science Council of Japan and the Japan Geoscience Union, have, by issuing statements and recommendations, indicated their readiness to respond to this earthquake disaster. We hope that this statement will lead to further collaboration with related organizations and the public, and thereby contribute to activities aimed at recovery and reconstruction.

Activities of the Oceanographic Society of Japan on the Great East Japan Earthquake

Kimio Hanawa

President of the Oceanographic Society of Japan

The enormous tsunami generated by the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku Area Pacific Offshore Earthquake that assaulted the Pacific coast of eastern Japan on March 11, 2011, caused the loss of many lives, destroyed many homes and other buildings, and in a single stroke deprived people and businesses of the bases for their livelihoods and production. The Oceanographic Society of Japan offers heartfelt prayers for those who lost their lives, and hopes that the disaster-stricken region will be rebuilt as soon as possible.

Owing to the trembling of this major earthquake and to the tsunami onslaught, control of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was lost, and we now know that a great quantity of radioactive material was released into the atmosphere and ocean. The accident is recognized to be of level 7, the highest level of the International Nuclear Event Scale, and there are concerns that the amounts of radioactive material released are of the worst magnitude ever. Observations and monitoring of discharges and dispersion of radioactive material in the atmosphere and ocean, as well as forecasts using numerical models, are currently being conducted by several organizations, chief among them government agencies; however, further improvements and continued efforts are desirable for both determining the current situation and for performing forecasts.

In addition to the human and material damage caused by the earthquake, it seems likely that the disaster has destroyed coastal ecosystems that underpin the marine products industry, washed away tidal flats, sandy beaches, macroalgae, and benthos, and caused many other kinds of damage. However, next to nothing is known about the situation.

The Oceanographic Society of Japan is an academic society founded in 1941 for the advancement of marine science. In light of this purpose, we hereby declare that the Society shall marshal all its resources to gather and provide information concerning what we learn about the state of the marine environment and concerning forecasts, to offer recommendations, and to organize projects for studies and research. By this means we shall strive to make a contribution to society by undertaking a response to the earthquake disaster. At the same time, we aim to provide information which is as easy to understand and in the largest amount possible to non-specialist Society members and to non-members.

The Society has established an “Earthquake Disaster Response Working Group” comprising all officers including the president and specialists in various fields. From now on, we intend to respond quickly with this working group as the nucleus. We ask for the support and cooperation of Society members, and of non-members who closely watch the Society’s activities. (18 April 2011)