Sullivan’s Save Our Seas 2.0 Act Passes Senate Unanimously

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate yesterday evening voted unanimously to pass S. 1982, the Save Our Seas (SOS) 2.0 Act,legislation introduced by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to address the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life. SOS 2.0 builds on the success of the Save Our Seas Act, introduced by Senators Sullivan and Whitehouse, and signed into law by President Trump in October 2018.

Save Our Seas 2.0 is the most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever to pass the U.S. Senate,” said Senator Sullivan. “Our legislation aims to tackle this global challenge on three fronts – improving America’s ability to respond to marine debris events and clean up waste, working toward international cooperation and agreements with nations responsible for the majority of trash entering the oceans, and exploring new, innovative ways to manage and even reuse plastic waste. The Senate’s resounding support for our bill today is another sign that the federal government is ready to take serious steps to address a challenge that impacts our coastal communities, many of them in Alaska. I want to commend my colleagues, particularly Senators Whitehouse and Menendez, for their hard work on this legislation as we look to get SOS 2.0 across the finish line in the House.” 

“Today’s vote is an important step toward removing the plastic pollution that washes up on beaches and in fishing nets from Rhode Island to Alaska, and eventually winds its way into the human food chain,” said Senator Whitehouse. “I’m pleased that the Senate approved our bill unanimously, signaling strong support from both sides of the aisle and upholding the bipartisan Senate tradition of taking care of our oceans.” 

As marine debris and plastic waste continues to threaten public health and economic prosperity of coastal communities in New Jersey and around the globe, the U.S. Senate today speaks with one voice by unanimously passing our Save our Seas Act 2.0 to bolster U.S. capacities and leadership in the global effort against plastic pollution,” said Senator Menendez. “This legislation takes important steps to protect our coastal waters that support everything from fishing and recreation to trade through our ports and harbors. I am committed to continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure this bill is signed into law as soon as possible.”

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.

Each of the bill’s components was reviewed and passed by a committee of jurisdiction – the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. Sullivan sits on both the Senate EPW and Commerce Committees.

The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Angus King (I-Maine), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), in addition to Senators Whitehouse, Sullivan, and Menendez.


  • May 2016 – Senator Sullivan chairs a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife on the marine debris crisis.
  • December 2016 – The Senate passes the Marine Debris Act Amendments, introduced by Senators Sullivan and Booker.
  • January 2017 – Senator Sullivan is named chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.
  • March 2017 – Senators Sullivan, Whitehouse and Booker introduce the Save Our Seas Act, legislation that was cosponsored by 19 of their Senate colleagues.
  • April 2017 – The Save Our Seas Act advances from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
  • July 27, 2017 – Senator Sullivan chaired a hearing of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard regarding the global marine debris crisis.
  • August 2017 – The Senate unanimously passes the Save Our Seas Act
  • August 2017 – Sullivan welcomes the director of the Marine Debris Program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to Alaska.
  • September 2018 – The House passes the Save Our Seas Act
  • October 2018 – President Trump signs the Save Our Seas Act into law in an Oval Office ceremony. 
  • February 2019 – A new coalition of private sector businesses form the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” and pledge $1.5 billion to help address the global marine debris crisis.
  • June 2019 – Senators Sullivan, Whitehouse and Menendez introduce the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • September 2019 – The Senate Environment and Public Works and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees advance two pieces of the SOS 2.0 Act.
  • November 2019 – the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee advances the final piece of the SOS 2.0 Act.

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