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Public Statements

Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. FARR. Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House passed H.R. 1171, known as the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012.

This act reauthorizes the NOAA Marine Debris Program at currently appropriated levels through fiscal year 2015. It has strong bipartisan support, particularly from my colleague Don Young, who was an original co-sponsor.

Look, nobody wants to go out on the water or to sit on the beach and see trash. But it's not just an eyesore--marine debris is a very critical problem for marine ecosystems, fisheries, and shipping. Marine debris can have devastating impacts on the U.S. economy too. For instance, it is estimated that $250 million of marketable lobster is lost annually to derelict fishing gear, which can also cause up to $792 million per year in damages to boat propellers.

Right now, an estimated 5-20 million tons of debris from the Japan's tsunami are floating across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. As this first wave of tsunami debris--including a 66-ft dock teaming with over 90 non-native species--washes ashore, I am astounded by the magnitude of this disaster's global impact. Cleanup costs can be huge. Alaska has already spent $200,000 just for aerial monitoring of the local debris field from the Japanese tsunami. While the Japanese tsunami debris resulted from a natural disaster, ocean trash is preventable.

Added to the debris that's already out there--is an average of 7 million tons of new trash dumped into the ocean each year. Solving this problem is going to require:

Local action, national and international coordination;

Unique partnerships between private and public sectors;

Innovative technology;

Education, Research and Prevention.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has been achieving real successes at sea and on shore, for a modest amount of funding. But this program expired in 2010 and must be reauthorized. Over the past 5 years, funding has ranged from 3.2 million to 4.9 million dollars.

It is clear from the recent tsunami debris events--the boat off the coast of Washington and the dock washed ashore in Oregon--that the problem is growing. There is no doubt in my mind that the Marine Debris Program could effectively spend $10 million dollars a year--that is the magnitude of the problem. And that is what was authorized in 2006. As this bill moves through the legislative process, I hope we can bring up the funding levels. Most of these funds go to local communities in the form of grants for marine debris cleanup, education, research, and prevention efforts.

Mr. Speaker, NOAA's Marine Debris Program is leading the effort to address this growing problem proactively and I thank my colleagues for passing for H.R. 1171.

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