Congress Sends Sullivan’s Save Our Seas Act to President’s Desk

Sullivan on Efforts to Combat Marine Debris: “For the media covering this issue - hold your breath - this is a fiercely bipartisan issue.”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) applauded the recent passage of the Save Our Seas Act, legislation he introduced along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to address the global marine debris crisis. The bill, which moves to the President’s desk following last Thursday’s passage in the U.S. House of Representatives, will boost the federal government’s domestic and international response to ocean waste, and allow the NOAA Administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize additional funds to states, like Alaska, for cleanup and response efforts.

 “This bipartisan legislation is important for the country, for the world, and certainly for Alaska, which has more coastline than the rest of the Lower 48 combined,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “The prevalence of marine debris on our shores is a chronic issue. This bill will serve to strengthen the federal response capabilities to marine debris disasters, combat land based marine debris resources, and encourage interagency coordination in stemming the tide of ocean trash and importantly encourage the Trump administration to pursue international agreements with regard to this challenge.”

 “Everyone from scientists, to journalists, to fishermen, to coastal industries and international corporations are sounding the alarm about plastic trash and other marine debris polluting our oceans,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “It’s time to protect our precious marine ecosystems and coastal economies from this threat,” said Senator Whitehouse, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “This bipartisan bill represents an important step forward in addressing the marine debris crisis.  Senators Sullivan, Booker, and I were proud to pass it in the Senate, and I’m thrilled to see it head to the White House today.”

 Last week, Senator Sullivan spoke at length on the overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to address the growing threat to ocean vitality and coastal ecosystems in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing entitled Cleaning Up the Oceans: How to Reduce the Impact of Man-Made Trash on the Environment, Wildlife, and Human Health?


Senator Sullivan speaking before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the Save Our Seas Act (click image or here to watch).

 “I want to emphasize what’s already been stated. But for the media covering this issue – hold your breath – this is a fiercely bipartisan issue. It does happen here. As a matter of fact, it happens quite a lot,” said Senator Sullivan. “This past year, Senator Whitehouse and I have engaged early and often with the EPA, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the State Department, and the American delegation to the G7 summit, other countries in the G7. What resulted in that – with countries in the G20 – is a growing, strong commitment to pursue marine debris prevention goals through future international trade agreements and development aid agreements. This is an important step toward, an actionable step, to curbing this man-made plight on our oceans that we all agree is a big problem.”

 Sullivan, a long time champion of combatting the global marine debris crisis, introduced the Save our Seas (SOS) Act on March 29, 2017. The legislation passed the Senate with unanimous support on August 3, 2017 and was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it was amended to include additional provisions relating to maritime safety. The bill was passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate on September 26, 2018 with additional maritime safety measures, before unanimously passing the U.S. House of Representatives on September 27, 2018.The bills boasts broad bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as numerous industry groups.

 The Save our Seas (SOS) Act will help confront the marine debris crisis by:

  • Allowing the NOAA Administrator to declare severe marine debris events and authorize funds to assist with cleanup and response.  The Governor of the affected state may request the NOAA Administrator make this declaration.
  • Reauthorizing NOAA’s Marine Debris Program through FY2022.  Its mission is to conduct research on the source of marine debris and take action to prevent and clean up marine debris.
  • Encouraging the Executive Branch – led by the U.S. State Department – to engage with the leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, support research into ocean biodegradable plastics, examine the causes of ocean debris, develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and quantify the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis.

The Save Our Seas (SOS) Act also includes maritime safety provisions from separate pieces of legislation, including:

  • H.R.6175 - Maritime Safety Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6206, Coast Guard Blue Technology Center of Expertise Act