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Public Statements

Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 1171, the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012, reauthorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's, NOAA, Marine Debris Program at currently appropriated levels through 2015. The program has played a crucial role in preventing and reducing the amount of trash on our beaches and in the ocean.

I think it's important to note that this program is not regulatory in nature. It takes a voluntary approach to improving the conditions of our marine environment.

Failure to adequately address marine debris has major consequences on our economy. Large objects floating in our oceans threaten the safe navigation of cargo ships and recreational boaters. Derelict fishing gear costs commercial fishermen millions of dollars in lost revenue. And debris washing up on our shores forces the closing of beaches, a major blow to local economies reliant on tourism.

In Alaska, NOAA's Marine Debris has worked with local partners to conduct more than 20 projects that have removed 750,000 pounds of debris from our shoreline since 2006. But the problem of marine debris is about to get worse for Alaska and other Pacific coast States. NOAA estimates there's 1.5 million tons of debris headed our way as a result of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and the tsunami.

Alaskans are already finding Styrofoam, plastic, wood, and other lightweight debris washing up on our islands. In May, the Coast Guard was forced to sink an abandoned Japanese vessel laden with fuel oil before it broke open on the Southeast panhandle.

Reauthorization of the Marine Debris Program is critical to help Alaska and other coastal States protect our economies and ecosystems and ensure the safety of those transiting our waters.

I want to commend Representative Sam Farr from California for introducing this bill. As an original cosponsor of this important bipartisan effort, I urge all Members to support the bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to thank the gentleman from California. Mr. Farr has been one of the leaders who has been concerned with the oceans, and this debris bill is crucially important to the State of California and especially to Alaska. Mr. Farr came to me many months ago and said we've got to get this done. We've got to get this done. A lot of people weren't interested, and now we finally get to a point where we see what's occurring from the tsunami, although we may not have that recur again.

The crisis in the ocean, though, is detrimental, as I mentioned in my opening statement, to the fishermen whom I represent and to the recreational people whom I represent. So to get it out of the ocean even before it reaches the beaches is crucially important. The beaches sometimes are sort of fun to beachcomb, but if there is something bad that's in the ocean, we should try to retrieve it sooner, if possible; and when it gets there, we really want to be able to take care of it.

There should be more money--I won't disagree with the gentleman from Washington--but we're moving this down the road. We'll see what happens on the Senate side, and we'll see if we can't get a little more effort, because it's a partnership program that makes this thing work. A lot of people have interest in Alaska and in trying to clean the beaches after it arrives, and we're trying to get more people interested in cleaning the ocean up before it does arrive. Hopefully, it will work together.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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