Murkowski Brings Together Alaskans to Address Harmful Impacts of Marine Debris

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, hosted a Marine Debris Briefing to highlight Alaska’s growing challenges when it comes to the massive amount of debris washing up on Alaska’s shores. The Senator brought experts on the issue together, including Alaskan panelists, to find solutions to this threat to Alaskans’ environment and livelihoods.

“Marine debris is an ever increasing issue in our state, from land-based runoff, shipping waste, boating debris, and the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Alaska has more than 49,000 miles of coastline, more than the entire Lower 48,” said Senator Murkowski. “It is our job, both in Congress and working with the Administration, to provide the tools needed to tackle this growing problem, and I will continue to work to do so. It is my hope that through these discussions, we can brainstorm new and innovative ways to address marine debris.”

The panel included:

  • NOAA Office of Response & Restoration Marine Debris Program Director, Nancy Wallace
  • Gulf of Alaska Keeper Co-founder, Chris Pallister
  • Sitka Sound Science Center Research Director, Victoria O’Connell
  • Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation Marine Debris Coordinator, Fred Jay Ivanoff
  • Port Heiden Environmental Director, Scott Anderson  


The panel discussed difficulties conducting marine debris cleanups in Alaska, from Norton Sound to the Southeast. The panel pointed not only to the immensity of Alaska’s coastline as the biggest hurdle, but the treacherous coastline itself. Also, the massive amount of debris that washes to shore annually has significantly increased since the 2011 Japanese tsunami. Once these cleanups occur, the debris must be transported out of remote locations and disposed of, which can be prohibitively expensive.

The need for increased funding to tackle marine debris cleanup projects in Alaska was unanimously agreed upon. Senator Murkowski looks to play a vital role in securing those funds and thanked panel participants and those who have dedicated their time and efforts to critical, and sometimes dangerous, cleanups around Alaska.