Senate Unanimously Passes Bipartisan Save our Seas (SOS) Act

August 03, 2017
Senate Unanimously Passes Bipartisan Save our Seas (SOS) Act

Today, members of the United States Senate voted unanimously to pass legislation designed to address the growing crisis of marine debris. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Founding Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus; Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Honorary Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus; and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a former Honorary Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, introduced the bipartisan bill in March.

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The Save our Seas (SOS) Act, which aims to promote a global response to the marine debris crisis, primarily reauthorizes the NOAA Marine Debris Program for five years.

The bill also encourages the U.S. State Department to engage with foreign leaders of countries in which the problem of marine debris is most severe in order to foster collaborative research into the sources and causes of refuse in order to promulgate an effective prevention strategy. The bill now proceeds to the House of Representatives, where Oceans Caucus Co-Chairs Representative Don Young (R-AK) and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) had already introduced bipartisan, companion legislation under the same title.

“Over the course of years and decades, marine debris deposited in the ocean half a world away inevitably finds its way to our coastal communities and ecosystems. Alaska, in particular, feels the brunt of this crisis with its extensive coastline. I’m heartened that Senators from coastal and landlocked states alike – from both parties – have come together to support the Save Our Seas Act, which is now one step closer to becoming law. I encourage my colleagues in the House to move swiftly, so that we can reauthorize NOAA’s vital Marine Debris Program and enact other measures to clean up our oceans.”

— Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)

“Plastic garbage and other junk crowding our oceans and shores is more than an eyesore. It’s a threat to vital ocean and coastal ecosystems and our economy. This bill tackles the marine debris crisis along American coasts. It will also push us to work with other countries on limiting the plastics and other harmful materials that find their way to the ocean. That includes working on an international agreement to stop the flow of trash from land into the ocean, and, if trash does get to the ocean, supporting research into new materials that break down in a way that won’t wreak havoc in our seas. Thank you to Senators Sullivan, Booker, and all the bipartisan cosponsors for helping to see this bill through.”

— Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

To read the full text of the press release, issued by the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, click here.

The Issue of Marine Debris

Marine debris is any manmade material that is improperly disposed of that ends up in lakes, waterways, and the ocean. Up to 80% of marine debris originates from land-based sources. Waste management challenges, particularly in developing countries, account for a large portion of marine debris. Much of the debris within U.S. waters does not originate from America. Ocean currents move discarded trash from foreign countries incredible distances, and that debris becomes the problem of the country it washes up on. It has been estimated that up to 12.7 million metric tons of waste entered the ocean in 2012, and that number is expected to increase by an order of magnitude if waste management infrastructure improvements are not implemented by 2025. Current authorizations for programs responsible for removal of debris have expired, and there are insufficient resources available to address and understand this problem.

The OCF is working with U.S. and global government leaders and the business and NGO communities to highlight the problem of marine debris and discuss possible solutions in order to clean up persistent debris and prevent new debris from entering the marine environment.

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