Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

A 20-foot fishing boat that washed ashore in Crescent City on Sunday is believed to be the first piece of debris to land on California shores from the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

After local law enforcement towed the vessel off the beach, a team from Humboldt State University's Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group, an interagency group that works to reduce earthquake and tsunami hazards, came to Crescent City to record the Japanese writing on the side of the boat.

Officials hope to use the writing, which was thought to be a license or registration number, to identify whether or not the boat washed to sea with receding tsunami waters.

"We are working with the Japanese government through the local consulate to confirm the source of any debris that we can," said Keeley Belva, a spokesperson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "It's challenging to confirm something;we need to have some sort of identification."

Out of about 1,700 reports of potential Japan tsunami debris that NOAA has received, only about 25 items have been confirmed to be from the 2011 tsunami, Belva said.

"Marine debris is a problem in general," Belva said. "There are things with Japanese writing that might not even be from Japan."