President Barack Obama signed the Marine Debris Act Amendments (Farr - H.R. 1171) into law on December 20, 2012 as part of the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation Act (H.R. 2838). The Marine Debris Act Amendments reauthroizes and amends the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act to create a marine debris program to address the billions of pounds of litter that travel to our ocean every year. Specifically, the bill requires NOAA to identify, determine sources of, assess, prevent, reduce and remove marine debris and address its adverse impacts on the national economy, the marine environment, and navigation safety. The Marine Debris Act Amendments also provides that NOAA assist in national and regional coordination to assist states, tribes, and regional organizations in the process of addressing ocean trash. For instance, NOAA is charged with helping Regional Ocean Partnerships, such as the West Coast Governors Marine Debris Alliance.
Senator Cantwell offered an amendment to the marine debris legislation to respond to the tsunami debris fall out resulting from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. This Senate version of the Marine Debris Act Amendments received unanimous support from Senators and was championed by Senators Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii), Mark Begich (Alaska), and Maria Cantwell (Washington). The overall Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act passed this week authorizes action on "severe marine debris events" including instances such as tsunami debris relief.
This end-of-the-year victory will work to address plastic ocean pollution on a national level and adds to our 20 local victories for the Rise Above Plastics program this year. Surfrider Foundation is pleased to see that the issue of plastic pollution is being highlighted on the national stage and will continue to push for more meaningful measures to Rise Above Plastics nationwide.