Sea Technology

JAN 2019

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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Page 10 of 49 January 2019 | ST 11 Review&Forecast We Can No Longer Ignore Our Oceans By Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) Co-Chair U.S. Senate Oceans Caucus E very day now, it seems we see news headlines spelling out the end of the oceans as we know them. Whether from pollution, warming, acidification, deoxygenation or other troubling consequences of climate change and overuse, the warnings from our oceans are dire. However, their fate is not yet sealed. There is hope. There are steps we can and must take to save our seas. One light in the darkness is the spirit of bipartisanship—rare these days in Washington—around oceans issues. The Senate Oceans Caucus, founded in 2011, brings togeth- er nearly 40 Democrats and Republicans to work together on marine issues. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and I co-chair the Caucus, with Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin as honorary co-chairs (we cover the Great Lakes, too!). I co-created the caucus with Sen. Murkowski with the mission of advancing marine policy and research. Despite all the partisan rhetoric and other policy battles, 2018 was a productive year for the group. One of our longstanding priorities has been combating the growing marine debris crisis. Each year, nearly 8 million metric tons of plas- tics enter the oceans from land. Once in the ocean, this plastic breaks down under the sun and waves into tiny particles that can enter the marine food web. Recent research has found these microplastics in a wide range of food and beverages that humans ingest, from seafood to bottled water to table salt. Last year, Sen. Sullivan and I introduced the Save Our Seas (SOS) Act. Among other things, this bipartisan bill reauthorizes NOAA's ma- rine debris program and urges the president to engage with other coun- tries on understanding and preventing marine litter. The bill received broad support from environmental advocates, plastic industry leaders, aquariums and other corporate actors. After working the bill through the House and Senate, we were able to deliver our SOS Act to the pres- ident's desk on October 11 to be signed into law. The SOS Act was a great first step in taking action on this issue, but there is still much more work to do. Sen. Sullivan and I joined forces again to co-lead a hearing on plastic pollution in the Senate Environ- ment and Public Works Committee. We are incorporating testimony received during that hearing with other expert feedback to draft SOS Act 2.0, which we plan to introduce early in the new Congress. This is an opportunity to be proactive about debris, preventing it from reach- ing our oceans or, even better, from being created in the first place. Our goal is to improve waste management infrastructure around the world and biodegradable plastics research by partnering with industry, non- governmental organizations and other governments. With progress underway on marine debris, the Senate Oceans Cau- cus is getting to work on another of its priorities: ocean data and mon- itoring. It is said that we know more about our moon than our oceans

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