Sullivan Chairs Hearing on Marine Debris Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on Tuesday chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard regarding the global marine debris crisis affecting many coastal communities and ecosystems, including in Alaska. Among the witnesses testifying at the hearing were David Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries, and Nancy Wallace, Director of the Marine Debris Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the second panel, the subcommittee heard from Dr. Melissa Duhaime, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“The majority of marine debris in the world's oceans comes from five countries in Asia: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam,” said Senator Sullivan. “A number of leaders from different countries have expressed interest in cooperating with the U.S. on the issue of marine debris. I’m optimistic that with America leading and engaging, we have the opportunity to achieve meaningful agreements to clean up our oceans. The U.S. State Department has an important role to play, not only in helping other countries bolster their waste management infrastructure, but helping to facilitate cultural change. I appreciate Ambassador Balton and Director Wallace for their attention to this important international challenge.”

In March, Senator Sullivan introduced the Save Our Seas (SOS) Act, legislation that would address the global marine debris crisis, with Senators Whitehouse (D-RI) and Booker (D-NJ). Among other measures, the Act would direct the Executive Branch – led by the U.S. State Department – to engage with the leaders of nations responsible for the majority of marine debris, examining the causes of ocean debris, effective prevention and mitigation strategies, and the economic benefits for treaty nations in addressing the crisis. 

The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in April. 

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