The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee advanced key legislation to address the growing global marine debris crisis late last week.
The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., would create a federal marine debris foundation, establish a “genius prize” to encourage the development of solutions to address plastics pollution, and launch a number of federal studies into marine debris, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which supports the legislation.
Last year, Congress unanimously passed the bipartisan Save Our Seas Act, which reauthorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program through FY2022 at $10 million annually and implemented additional measures to improve other domestic marine debris programs.
The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act builds upon this success by improving the U.S. response to marine debris, incentivizing international engagement and strengthening domestic infrastructure to prevent new marine debris, according to NMMA.
According to the United Nations, every year eight million metric tons of plastic bottles, straws, bags, fishing gear, and abandoned vessels are dumped into the ocean.
Debris causes harm to coastal economies, endangers marine life, proliferates the spread of AIS, and creates hazardous conditions for boaters. Some studies have estimated that by 2025, oceans will contain one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish.
The Save our Seas 2.0 Act will not solve the entire marine debris problem, but the measure represents a significant next step towards addressing the issue at home, while enhancing global collaboration and engagement.