Save our Seas Act

I like podcasts. I listen to The Daily from the New York Times on a daily basis, and I catch up on several other podcasts throughout the week. I was recently in New York City eating at The Little Beet when I thought I saw Michael Barbaro (host of The Daily). I went full creepy and took a picture.

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Doppelgänger?

One of my other favorite Podcasts comes out on Thursdays and features another New Yorker–Preet Bharara.

Preet Bharara is the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and he offers smart, thoughtful commentary on several matters on his podcast. Sheldon Whitehouse, the junior Senator (D) from Rhode Island, recently appeared as a guest on the show.

Although most of the podcast covered more sensational political events, Whitehouse mentioned the passing of the Save our Seas Act as a notable bi-partisan achievement in the Senate.

I hadn’t heard much about this bill. Scratch that, I had heard nothing about this bill. So it peaked my interest.  Marine debris is obviously a big problem. You’ve probably seen pictures of plastic choked turtles or heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  

Albatross at Midway Atoll Refuge (8080507529)

An Albatross Chick on Midway Atoll — a thousand miles from human civilization.  It’s hard to survive when all you eat is plastic. Credit Chris Jordan via Wikimedia.

 According to the bill, the Save our Seas Act seeks to “reauthorize and amend the Marine Debris Act to promote international action to reduce marine debris, and for other purposes.

Have you ever read a bill? It’s kind of cool. Here is a snippet.

It is the sense of Congress that the President should—

(1) support research and development, including through the establishment of a prize competition, of bio-based and other alternatives or environmentally feasible improvements to materials that reduce municipal solid waste and its consequences in the ocean;

(2) work with representatives of foreign countries that contribute the most to the global marine debris problem to learn about, and find solutions to, the contributions of such countries to marine debris in the world’s oceans;

(3) carry out studies to determine—

(A) the primary means by which solid waste enters the oceans;

(B) the manner in which waste management infrastructure can be most effective in preventing debris from reaching the oceans;

(C) the long-term economic impacts of marine debris on the national economies of each country set out in paragraph (1) and on the global economy; and

(D) the economic benefits of decreasing the amount of marine debris in the oceans;

(4) work with representatives of foreign countries that contribute the most to the global marine debris problem, including land-based sources, to conclude one or more new international agreements that include provisions—

(A) to mitigate the risk of land-based marine debris contributed by such countries reaching an ocean; and

(B) to increase technical assistance and investment in waste management infrastructure, if the President determines appropriate; and 

(5) encourage the United States Trade Representative to consider the impact of marine debris in relevant future trade agreements.

The bill seems to have two major implications according to the Ocean Conservancy League.

  1. The bill encourages diplomats to engage in dialogue with nations who contribute to ocean waste. Did you know that just ten rivers in Africa and Asia contribute to 90% of all marine debris?
  2. The bill appropriates funds for the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

While the bill has passed the Senate, it has yet to clear the House! World Wildlife Fund has set up an easy forum for you to contact your representative in the House and encourage him or her to pass this bill!

Click here to contact your representative!

P.S. I grew up as an inlander in Texas and Colorado. Now that I live in New Jersey, I have ready access to the ocean. I’ve enjoyed immensely the opportunity to watch wildlife at the Jersey shore. I just want to say thank you to New Jersey’s junior Senator Cory Booker (D) for introducing the Save our Seas Act in the Senate!!

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An Osprey at Edwin B Forsyth Wildlife Refuge near Atlantic City, NJ

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Watching shorebirds at Sandy Hook Beach. Manhattan looms in the background.

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An Oystercatcher enjoying the breeze in Cape May, NJ