Sullivan Hosts Roundtable Highlighting Alaska’s Marine Debris Programs

WASHINGTON—Last week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) hosted a virtual meeting with the leadership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and program directors of organizations from across Alaska to discuss their marine debris clean-up projects and how the Sullivan-authored, bipartisan Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (SOS) is advancing these effortsSigned into law in December of 2020, SOS 2.0 has increased investments in domestic infrastructure, strengthened support for marine debris programs, enhanced international engagement, and included a key provision which prioritized NOAA’s marine debris efforts.

“It was great to speak with experts in the marine debris field who are passionate about cleaning up our oceans and protecting our marine ecosystem,” said Senator Sullivan. “Alaskans disproportionately feel the impact of the marine debris crisis, given our state’s immense size and endless coastline. I’m glad to see the Save Our Seas Act and SOS 2.0 are empowering NOAA and many individuals and local groups to get trash out of our waters and off of our beaches, and truly make a difference. As I often say, this is one environmental challenge that is solvable, and these Alaskans are proving it. On Earth Day, I want to thank and commend them for their efforts and for their advocacy on behalf of our great state.”

“The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to partner with and support the dedicated community working to address and prevent marine debris in Alaska, including recent projects to support debris prevention in the Arctic, remove legacy debris in Southeast Alaska, remove and sustainably dispose of debris in Kodiak and the Pribilof Islands, and many others. The MDP appreciates the active engagement of the community in Alaska working to reduce the impacts of marine debris,” said Nancy Wallace, chief, Marine Debris Division, NOAA.

"The Ocean Plastics Recovery Project (OPR) is hopeful for a future without plastic waste and believes that the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is a big step in the right direction. Not only does the Act work to prevent marine debris by improving our domestic recycling and recovery infrastructure and strengthening our international collaboration on the issue - it also provides much needed resources for marine debris cleanup and research," said Scott Farling, co-founder, Ocean Plastics Recovery. 

“At Island Trails Network, part of our mission is the stewardship of over 1500 miles of coastline that comprises the Kodiak archipelago. Unfortunately, much of this coastline is impacted by marine debris. The Save Our Seas Act 2.0 takes important steps towards addressing this problem through international engagement and development of recycling infrastructure, both of which will be critical to reducing marine debris in the future.  But the act doesn’t stop there.  The creation of a marine debris foundation will give communities like ours more tools to address the marine debris that is already littering our shores,” said Andy Schroeder, executive director, Island Trails Network.

“Preventing marine debris, including single-use plastics, from impacting the food security of our coastal communities in Alaska begins with creating awareness about this global problem and promoting school and community based prevention as a part of the solution. Save our Seas 2.0 will build up the capacity to address the sources, often foreign, and respond to marine debris on-the-ground along our coasts especially in rural and remote areas,” said Nicole Kanayurak, deputy director, North Slope Borough, Department of Wildlife Management. 

“As indigenous people living in the Bering Sea for centuries, we have been witness to a never-ending amount of marine debris on our shores and in our waters. As stewards of our home, the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government is extremely active in both removal and prevention of marine debris, having implemented NOAA projects for both in an effort to protect our environment and the species within. We couldn’t be more pleased with the enactment of Save Our Seas 2.0. This legislation will help to bring the necessary attention and resources needed to finally achieving sustainable marine debris prevention,” said Amos Philemonoff, Sr., president, Aleut Community of St. Paul Island.  

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is composed of three main pieces: 

  1. Strengthening the United States’ domestic marine debris response capability with a Marine Debris Foundation, a genius prize for innovation, and new research to tackle the issue.
  2. Enhancing global engagement to combat marine debris, including formalizing U.S. policy on international cooperation, enhancing federal agency outreach to other countries, and exploring the potential for a new international agreement on the challenge. 
  3. Improving domestic infrastructure to prevent marine debris through new grants for and studies of waste management and mitigation. 

On December 18, 2020, the Save Our Seas 2.0 (SOS) Act was signed into law. This legislation, sponsored by U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Don Young (R-AK), is the most comprehensive legislation passed by Congress to address the marine debris crisis threatening coastal communities and marine life. 

SOS 2.0 builds on the success of the Save Our Seas Act, introduced by Senators Sullivan and Whitehouse in the Senate, and Representatives Bonamici and Young in the House, and signed into law by President Trump in October 2018.

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