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Public Statements

Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. THOMPSON of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Marine Debris Act Reauthorization Amendments, which is important legislation to my district in Northern California and the West Coast. This bipartisan legislation will maintain current efforts to remove marine debris from our coastlines, provide updates on the status of marine debris, and prevent redundant activities among state and federal agencies.

Marine debris has been a problem for our oceans and coasts for decades. Trash has been filling our oceans and thereby impacting human health, harming wildlife, and littering our favorite beaches. For over 25 years, we have been relying heavily on volunteers, non-governmental organizations, and local governments to patrol our shores and pick up our trash. For example, in 2010 more than 5,400 cars could have been outfitted with the tires found during beach cleanup efforts. The work of these volunteers and organizations is invaluable and they need our help. Not only in terms of their planned cleanup activities, but to help in times of catastrophic events that create debris that is beyond physical and fiscal capabilities to remove.

Today, marine debris is of even more concern since a massive tsunami tragically struck the coastline of Japan 16 months ago. The disaster claimed nearly 16,000 lives, injured 6,000, and destroyed or damaged well over a million buildings with 130-foot waves.

Studies by the Japanese government estimate approximately 5 million tons of debris was swept into the ocean. Of that, 1.5 million tons are thought to be heading towards the West Coast of the United States.

As the Congressional representative for the longest coastline in the lower 48 states, the impending arrival of the tsunami debris is of utmost concern. It is essential that we have fully developed contingency plans to remove debris that hits our shores, especially objects that are considered hazardous.

Over the past few months, debris from the Japanese tsunami (ranging from soccer balls to 66-foot piers) has landed along the Pacific Coast of the United States. It is clear we cannot deal with this issue without proper funding and resources. In this economic climate, we need to think critically and creatively to develop funding solutions that address this increase in marine debris.

The reauthorization of the Marine Debris Program by this legislation will facilitate national and international efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of garbage on our shores. Once we pass this crucial legislation, the next step is to provide funding to our states to handle both emergency debris issues and everyday trash problems.

Marine debris is a global problem with local implications. More than ever, we need knowledge and guidance on marine debris and I urge a yes vote for H.R. 1171.

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