OKINAWA, Japan: Considerable amounts of grey pumice, which surfaced following the eruption of the Fukutokuokanoba undersea volcano some months ago, have clogged dozens of ports and damaged fishing boats along Japan’s southern coastlines.
On Friday, deputy chief cabinet secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said the pumice has surfaced at 11 ports in Okinawa and 19 in Kagoshima prefecture on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, forcing the Japanese government to form a disaster recovery task force.
Some 40 fishing boats were damaged and ferry services connecting remote islands in Okinawa and Kagoshima were temporarily suspended due to the pumice.
According to Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki, the pumice had a “huge impact on the fisheries and tourism industries, as well as the environment.”
“We have no choice but to proceed with the cleanup work by trial and error,” he said, as reported by Kyodo News.
The grey pebbles came from the volcano located hundreds of kilometers away, along the Ogasawara island chain, which erupted in mid-August.
The Japanese Coast Guard released a map showing the drift pattern of the pebbles, while warning vessels in the area to ensure their engines are not affected.
Isozaki warned that the pebbles are moving north and could affect entire Japanese coasts, stating, “Seeing as the pumice on the sea surface could spread to a wide area of Japan, we will continue to deal with the matter carefully,” as reported by The Guardian.
During its first meeting on Thursday, the new government task force promised to support local municipalities as part of a disaster recovery project, adding that the damage to fishing industries will be covered by insurance, Isozaki said.
Meanwhile, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that some 750 fishing boats were unable to leave port in Okinawa, and about 150 locally-farmed Indian mackerel died after apparently swallowing pumice.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority is also monitoring the movement of the pebbles to protect Japan’s coastal nuclear power plants.