Sullivan, Booker Amendments to Marine Debris Program Pass Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, applauded the Senate’s December 10th passage of the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2016. 

The legislation reauthorizes NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and provides for a new funding mechanism to respond to clean-up efforts from a “Severe Marine Debris Event” as determined by the NOAA Administrator. Examples of a Severe Marine Debris Event include earthquakes, floods, storms, massive maritime accidents, or incidents such as the 2011 tsunami off the coast of Japan. 

In addition, this legislation adds the State Department to the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee and encourages them to engage with the foreign nations responsible for depositing the majority of ocean debris. This engagement would seek shared solutions to marine debris formation, ways to prevent debris from reaching the oceans, and the long-term economic impacts of marine debris.

"Alaska's coastal communities have been some of the hardest hit by the waste and garbage filling our oceans, with the bulk of the debris coming from nations halfway around the globe," said Senator Sullivan. "This bill provides additional funding to help us respond to future catastrophic disasters resulting in large amounts of debris. I hope the new Administration will step up to a leadership role in engaging with the major producers of marine debris, enabling us to get a handle on this crisis and protect our fisheries, wildlife and coastlines."

“Every 60 seconds, what amounts to roughly a garbage truck full of plastic makes its way into the ocean, and it has been estimated that if we do nothing to address this problem, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean in terms of sheer weight by 2050,” said Senator Booker. “We do not have a minute to waste when it comes to addressing, researching and preventing marine debris pollution, and I am encouraged that this bill will mark a renewed commitment by the United States to lead the effort in cleaning up our oceans.” 

The NOAA Marine Debris Program was established in 2006 with the signing of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act. The Act was last amended in December 2012.

Senator Sullivan, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, held a hearing on the topic of marine debris on May 17, 2016 which can be viewed here.  

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