WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) applauded passage today of two key components of Save Our Seas 2.0 by the SFRC and the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). In June, the Senators introduced the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, three-part legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis threatening coastal economies and harming marine life. The third component is awaiting action by the Senate Commerce Committee.
“Our Jersey Shore attracts millions of visitors each year and our coastal waters support everything from fishing and recreation to trade through our ports and harbors,” said Sen. Menendez. “As we grapple with the implications of plastic waste – mostly from overseas -- flooding our oceans and washing up on our shores -- we must exercise our global leadership.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Menendez-authored legislation (Save Our Seas 2.0: Enhanced Global Engagement to Combat Marine Debris Act, S. 2372) designed to enhance U.S. global engagement to combat marine debris.
“As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I’ve pushed to make sure that our strategy includes a real focus on using our foreign policy and international cooperation to combat plastic pollution abroad,” Menendez added. “And with today’s committee action, that work moves one big step forward.”
Separately, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved part of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (introduced separately as the Save Our Seas 2.0: Improving Domestic Infrastructure to Prevent Marine Debris Act, S. 2260) pertaining to improving domestic waste and water infrastructure,
“The Senate has a tradition of working in a bipartisan fashion to protect our oceans, and this week’s IPCC report emphasizes how important it is to repair ocean health,” said Sen. Whitehouse, who co-founded the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus to find common ground in responding to issues facing the oceans and coasts. “The Save Our Seas 2.0 Act would put in place creative solutions on a global scale to further address the marine debris crisis.”
“The passing of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act through two committees today builds even more momentum toward our goal of protecting the coastlines of the world, our nation, and the vast shores of Alaska from marine pollution,” said Sen. Sullivan. “The fact that we have such broad bipartisan support, not only within Congress and from the President, but also from environmental groups and the private sector, really underscores the opportunity we have to take action against this entirely solvable global environmental challenge.”
Roughly eight million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste from land enters the oceans each year. Ninety percent of this plastic enters the oceans from ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia. The plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that can enter the marine food chain and harm fish and wildlife, and wash ashore on even the most remote stretches of coastline. Plastic has been found in areas as remote as the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point in the ocean.
The full Save Our Seas 2.0 Act is also cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rob Portman (D-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.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).