Sullivan, Whitehouse Celebrate Establishment of Marine Debris Foundation Headquarters in Juneau, Alaska

JUNEAU, ALASKA—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) celebrated an announcement from the Marine Debris Foundation today that it will establish a headquarters in Juneau. The charitable and nonprofit foundation was established by Sullivan and Whitehouse’s 2020 Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, the most comprehensive legislation ever passed by Congress to address the plastic debris crisis.

“For the past two years, I’ve strongly supported the continued growth of the Marine Debris Foundation and relentlessly advocated for it to be headquartered in Alaska—the state with more coastline than the other 49 states combined. Today, I’m very pleased to announce the foundation will set up headquarters here in Juneau,” said Sen. Sullivan. “I especially want to thank my Save Our Seas co-lead in the Senate, Senator Whitehouse, for his partnership and all of his hard work making this foundation a reality. Juneau is an ideal location. The Juneau campus of the UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences and the University of Alaska Southeast already do important ocean-oriented research. Basing the Marine Debris Foundation alongside these two programs has enormous potential to help address this entirely solvable environmental challenge that disproportionately impacts our great state. This is an exciting day for Alaska and for the broad bipartisan coalition we’ve marshaled to better protect our marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal economies.”

“I want to congratulate my Save Our Seas partner Senator Sullivan on the news that the Marine Debris Foundation will stand up its headquarters in Juneau.  Marine debris is choking our oceans, and the harms are felt most acutely in coastal states like Alaska and Rhode Island.  Tackling the scourge of plastic waste washing up on shores across the country is a massive challenge and will take continued bipartisan cooperation,” said Sen. Whitehouse.

“We are grateful for Senator Sullivan and Whitehouse's vision that established the Marine Debris Foundation, and for the University of Alaska's generous offer to support a Marine Debris Foundation office in Juneau,” said Susan Sherman, executive director of the Marine Debris Foundation. “Alaska is a microcosm of the global marine debris problem, as ocean plastics from Russia, China, Japan, and elsewhere ultimately find their way to Alaska's shoreline. The foundation's presence in Juneau will help raise awareness of the severity of the marine debris issue in-state, nationally and internationally, and will serve as a center of gravity for engagement with donors and partner groups.”

“Ocean Conservancy is excited to hear about the opening of a Marine Debris Foundation office in Alaska, and we look forward to working with them to further collaborative efforts to address marine debris in the state,” said Kristina Tirman, manager, Alaska Marine Debris, Ocean Conservancy. “Marine debris is one of the most visible and prolific threats to face our ocean, and removing it from shorelines in Alaska is especially difficult, dangerous, and expensive. We appreciate Senator Sullivan’s leadership to recognize these unique challenges in Alaska as we work to implement the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act 2.0. Having a local arm to support removal and prevention of marine debris is a huge win for coastal communities across Alaska. We stand ready to assist in future strategies and solutions that move towards an Alaska free from marine debris.”

“Every minute, the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic waste enters our oceans, adding up to 11 million metric tons of plastic every year, and the problem is continuing to grow,” said Alejandro Pérez, senior vice president for policy and government affairs, World Wildlife Fund. “With the longest coastline in the U.S., Alaska understands well the damaging impacts of marine debris, and the University of Alaska is a fitting place for the Marine Debris Foundation to call home. Through bipartisan laws passed under the leadership of Senator Sullivan, such as the Save Our Seas Act and Save Our Seas 2.0, Congress has taken concrete steps to address this problem, including the creation of the Foundation. The Foundation complements the work of federal agencies and partners with cities, States, tribes, and developing countries in their efforts to prevent plastic pollution and remove it from our waters, making it a key tool for addressing the problem both locally and globally.”

Part of the new foundation’s role is to encourage, accept, and administer private funding in support of the mission and activities of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program. The foundation will also assist state, local, and tribal governments, foreign governments, organizations, and individuals in mitigation efforts and support other federal actions to reduce marine debris.


  • In December 2023, the Senate unanimously passed Sen. Sullivan’s legislation amending the 2020 SOS 2.0 Act to provide NOAA greater flexibility to deliver federal resources and enter into cooperative agreements to conduct marine debris prevention and clean-up, and to clarify the function and responsibilities of the Marine Debris Foundation.
  • On April 6, 2022, NOAA announced twelve appointees to the inaugural Board of Directors of the new congressionally-chartered Marine Debris Foundation, including two Alaskans.
  • In December 2021, the U.S. Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report entitled, “Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste.” The report, mandated by the SOS 2.0 Act and sponsored by NOAA, synthesizes all existing research on marine debris and presents a stark assessment of the amount of plastic that enters the world’s oceans.
  • In May 2021, Sen. Sullivan encouraged Alaskans to apply to serve on the twelve-member Board of Directors of the new Marine Debris Foundation.
  • In April 2021, Sen. Sullivan hosted a virtual meeting with the leadership of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and program directors of organizations from across Alaska to discuss their marine debris clean-up projects and how the SOS 2.0 Act is advancing these efforts.
  • On December 18, 2020, the Save Our Seas 2.0 (SOS) Act was signed into law. The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Sullivan, Whitehouse, and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).
  • In July 2020, Sens. Sullivan and Whitehouse testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS) regarding U.S. efforts to combat the global marine debris crisis and the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In January 2020, Sens. Sullivan, Whitehouse and Menendez held a colloquy on the Senate floor discussing the Senate’s unanimous passage of the SOS 2.0 Act
  • In January 2020, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In November 2019, the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advanced the final piece of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In September 2019, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the Senate Foreign Relations (SFRC) Committees advanced two pieces of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In July 2019, major stakeholders and media organizations reacted to the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In June 2019, Sens. Sullivan, Whitehouse and Menendez introduced the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • In February 2019, a new coalition of private sector businesses formed the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” and pledged $1.5 billion to help address the global marine debris crisis.
  • In October 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Save Our Seas Act into law in an Oval Office ceremony. 
  • In September 2018, the House passed the Save Our Seas Act
  • In August 2017, Sen. Sullivan welcomed the director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program to Alaska.
  • In August 2017, the Senate unanimously passed the Save Our Seas Act.
  • In July 2017, Sen. Sullivan chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard regarding the global marine debris crisis.
  • In April 2017, the Save Our Seas Act advanced from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
  • In March 2017, Sens. Sullivan, Whitehouse and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Save Our Seas Act, legislation that was cosponsored by 19 of their Senate colleagues.
  • In January 2017, Sen. Sullivan was named chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.
  • In December 2016, the Senate passed the Marine Debris Act Amendments, introduced by Sens. Sullivan and Booker.
  • In May 2016, Sen. Sullivan chaired a hearing of the Senate EPW Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife on the marine debris crisis. 

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