In today's climate, victories for the oceans are rare. So we're pleased to celebrate steps by Congress this month to protect our oceans from the grave threats of trash and pirate fishing.
Marine debris litters beaches on the Pacific Islands (NOAA)
Almost every week, reports document the plastic and other trash in our oceans that is often ingested by sea life. Millions of fish, marine mammals, seabirds, and turtles die every year from eating plastic and being entangled in debris.
On August 1, the House of Representatives passed the Marine Debris Reauthorization Amendments of 2012 (H.R. 1171). The small but vital NOAA Marine Debris program works to address the adverse impacts of trash in the ocean on marine life, beaches, waterways and navigation. Our Director of Policy and Legislation, Michael Gravitz, says that reauthorization is a good first step - "But if we want to seriously take on the issue of reducing marine debris globally and cleaning up emergencies like the Japanese tsunami, we have to supplement this current bill with a more strategic and well-funded program."
Coast Guard cutter tracks suspected pirate fishing boat (USCG)
The same week, the Senate Commerce Committee took action on "pirate fishing" - also known as Illegal, Unregulated, or Unreported (IUU) fishing. Just like the piracy of old, this is marine crime. It is depleting our oceans of marine life and destroying vibrant ecosystems, while hurting fishermen who observe laws that protect the oceans. The Pirate Fishing Elimination Act (S. 1980) will reduce illegal or unregulated fishing by giving American officials better enforcement power and making it harder to import "plundered" fish.
Our policy team works hard to support effective action on marine debris and pirate fishing, among other initiatives. Day in and day out, we push elected officials and agencies to enact strong, well-funded ocean management programs. So we celebrate positive steps like these - while never overlooking how much more needs to be done. Thank you for your support.
William J. Chandler
Vice President for Government Affairs