H.R. 1171: Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

H.R. 1171

Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012

August 1, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1171, the Marine Debris Act Amendments of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval.  The bill was introduced on March 17, 2011, by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a mark up and reported the bill, as amended, by voice vote on June 7, 2012.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1171 would reauthorize and amend the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act. The bill would provide $4.9 million annually for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to carry out activities to reduce marine debris through FY 2015. In total, the bill would authorize $15 million over the FY 2013 through FY 2017 period, according to CBO. The program was previously authorized at an annual level of $10 million from FY 2006 through FY 2010.

In addition to reauthorize marine debris reduction programs carried out by NOAA, the bill would change the name of the “Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act” to the “Marine Debris Act.”  The bill would clarify the purposes of the program to identify, determine sources of, assess, prevent, reduce, and remove marine debris, with a focus on marine debris posing a threat to living marine resources and navigation safety. The purposes would also authorize NOAA to provide national and regional coordination to assist states, Indian tribes, and regional organizations in identification, determination of sources, assessment, prevention, reduction, and removal of marine debris. NOAA would also be authorized to participate in the development of effective nonregulatory measures and incentives to cooperatively reduce the volume of lost and discarded fishing gear and to aid in its recover.  Finally, the bill would authorize NOAA to undertake outreach and education of the public on sources of marine debris, threats associated with marine debris, and approaches to identify, reduce, and remove marine debris.


According the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, was signed into law on December 22, 2006, and authorized $10 million annually through fiscal year 2010 for NOAA to implement a program to map, identify, and conduct impact assessments of marine debris. The bill also authorized NOAA to undertake activities to remove and prevent marine debris, conduct public outreach activities to increase awareness of problems associated with marine debris. The bill also authorized $2 million annually through fiscal year 2010 for the Coast Guard to carry out enforcement of prohibitions against at-sea discharge of plastic and trash from vessels. Finally, the Act authorized the Coast Guard to take action to improve international coordination and set up a voluntary program to report locations of marine debris and the hazards it may present to navigation.

Marine Debris is currently defined for the purpose of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act as “any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.” These items can entangle boat propellers and clog water intakes on vessels and at industrial facilities. Larger pieces of marine debris, including abandoned vessels, derelict fishing gear, and lost cargo containers and their contents, can crush coral and other wildlife and pose a threat to safe navigation.

According to the Committee, Marine debris impacts the economy as well. The maritime sector suffers lost productivity when marine debris threatens safe navigation or causes damage to vessels. The Committee also states that “Commercial fishermen lose millions annually due to derelict fishing gear. Marine debris that washes up on our nation’s shorelines can cause beach closures, which cost local tourist-based economies billions annually.”


According to CBO, “H.R. 1171 would authorize the appropriation of $4.9 million a year through 2015 for NOAA to carry out the Marine Debris Program. In 2011, NOAA spent about $4 million to carry out activities related to the program. Assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts, CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would cost about $15 million over the 2013-2017 period.”