The Blog Aquatic » Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:48:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 House of Representatives Ignores Calls for Investments in Our Ocean and the People that Depend on It http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/08/house-of-representatives-ignores-calls-for-investments-in-our-ocean-and-the-people-that-depend-on-it/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/08/house-of-representatives-ignores-calls-for-investments-in-our-ocean-and-the-people-that-depend-on-it/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 13:22:56 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8207

Just a few months ago, President Obama called for a much-needed boost in federal funding for our ocean. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, has refused to stand up and answer that call. The House’s proposed funding bill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which was released this week ignores needed investments in critical areas of ocean science and conservation, and would even take steps backward, decreasing the amount of funding for our ocean from current levels.

Overall, the bill fails to provide  $22.7 million for the National Ocean Service and $46.6 million for the National Marine Fisheries Service that NOAA has requested – a total loss of nearly $70 million for our oceans, and $24.5 million below current funding levels.


A closer look reveals that the House proposal:

  • Fails to increase investment in ocean acidification research to improve our understanding of acidification impacts on vulnerable communities and businesses—and to devel­op tools and strategies to tackle the economic, on-the-ground impacts.
  • Fails to fund Regional Coastal Resilience Grants that could help build resilient coastal communities that are prepared to face changing ocean conditions, economic conditions, and major events, such as Superstorm Sandy, that threaten people’s businesses, livelihoods, homes and way of life.
  • Fails to invest in improvements to oil spill response capacity in the Arctic, where no demonstrated technology or technique exists to respond effectively to an oil spill in icy waters. The House also fails to increase funding for the Arctic Observing Network to track and understand profound changes in the Arctic.
  • Guts funding for climate change science to the tune of nearly $40 million below current levels, and nearly $70 million below the amount NOAA says we need.  This means that that funding for many much-needed activities would be at risk, from baseline science and data collection on climate and weather, to cutting-edge research on extreme events — like heat waves, droughts — and how our communities and businesses can best prepare for them.

Experts agree that we need to invest in our ocean now to support its health and productivity in the future. For example, Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a major international conference called “Our Ocean” in June to bring together government officials, scientists, and industry representatives from all over the world to determine how to address marine issues in a way that will make a difference in people’s lives. At the same time, efforts like the XPrize Ocean Initiative are leveraging private sector dollars and innovation to answer key questions about our ocean and advance solutions.

The House will pass this funding bill through Committee today, and likely vote on it later this month. The Obama administration and millions of coastal residents and businesses understand the importance of smart investments in the health and productivity of our ocean. We hope to see the Senate take responsible action when they produce their own budget for consideration.

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Obama Pushes for Needed Boost in Ocean Funding http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/04/obama-pushes-for-needed-boost-in-ocean-funding/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/04/obama-pushes-for-needed-boost-in-ocean-funding/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:24:35 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7647

Photo: Jupiter Unlimited

The White House released President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 today. The proposal appears to be good news for the ocean and a great first step toward strong funding for ocean-health programs next year.

Of course, the budget documents that the administration released today are only part of the picture. They detail the big-picture, top-level budget numbers with only a small number of details, and individual program budgets won’t be released until later.

So what can we tell from what has been released so far? Last year, we focused on some key questions to help decide how the ocean is faring in the federal budget process. In particular, we asked whether the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) top-line budget number is sufficient, and whether there was appropriate balance between NOAA’s “wet” ocean and “dry” non-ocean missions.

When it comes to NOAA’s overall budget numbers, things look pretty good. Regarding the balance between wet and dry missions, the single biggest increase goes to the satellite line office, but the National Ocean Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service both see healthy increases as well.  We will not know details until additional numbers are released, but we do not see any red flags to suggest that things are way out of balance.

Here are some key takeaways based on what we know today:

Overall NOAA Funding Looks Strong: The White House demonstrated support for increased funding at NOAA. NOAA programs lead cutting-edge research on ocean health and support smart ocean management. NOAA is also the central agency tasked with ending overfishing. While NOAA’s FY 2014 funding level is an improvement over FY 2013’s abysmal sequestration level, the proposal from the White House shows how far we still have to go: It calls for a $174 million increase over FY 2014, recommending $5.5 billion in funding for NOAA in FY 2015.

Ocean Acidification Research Funding Sees a Big Increase: Notably, the president’s budget would provide a much-needed $15 million for ocean acidification research, an increase of $9 million. As the ocean absorbs the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, the carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the ocean and adversely impacting marine life. This is already having serious economic effects on shellfish growers and others who make their living from the sea. This money would help us better understand the problem and devise solutions that protect coastal economies.

Administration-Wide Attention to Climate Change: The new budget also establishes a Climate Resilience Fund. While we have yet to see specific details on how this fund will be distributed, it is designed to help states and citizens adapt. NOAA should have a critical role to play here. NOAA provides the services coastal communities need to be storm-ready and prepared for changing ocean conditions as well as changing economics. NOAA should be at the frontline of the Administration’s resilience efforts. We hope to see resources from the Climate Resilience Fund support NOAA initiatives and partnerships.

Gulf of Mexico Restoration: This is also the first budget that reflects money coming into NOAA under the RESTORE Act, which directs certain fines and penalties from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to restoration and science in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA will manage 2.5 percent of overall RESTORE funding for science, monitoring and technology needs, consistent with the Science Plan Framework just released in December 2013. NOAA, along with other federal agencies and the Gulf states, is steadily making headway toward implementing the RESTORE Act. This work will provide a solid foundation as restoration of the Gulf under RESTORE moves forward.

It may be a few weeks before we know more about the president’s proposals for specific ocean programs, from fisheries stock assessments to grants for Regional Ocean Partnerships. But considering the top-line NOAA funding proposal, we feel confident that ocean priorities will be strongly supported in the coming year.

While NOAA’s FY 2014 funding level is an improvement over FY 2013’s abysmal sequestration level, the proposal from the White House shows how far we still have to go: It calls for a $174 million increase over FY 2014, recommending $5.5 billion in funding for NOAA in FY 2015.

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Does the 2014 Budget Bill Support a Healthy Ocean? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/18/does-the-2014-budget-bill-support-a-healthy-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/18/does-the-2014-budget-bill-support-a-healthy-ocean/#comments Sat, 18 Jan 2014 12:16:57 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7386

Photo: NOAA

This week, Congress reached a compromise on a budget bill for fiscal year 2014. But does the bill support a healthy ocean? Let’s just say, if the bill were a marine biology student, it would need to get a tutor.

In the months since last October’s costly government shutdown, Congress has been busily debating how to go forward on major funding issues. Naturally, Ocean Conservancy is concerned with making sure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – and ocean-related programs in general – will receive adequate money. In the beginning stages of the debate last year, we laid out three critical questions that would determine whether the bill was good for the ocean. When the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed their versions of the bill, we graded them based on these questions.

Now that the two chambers have reached a compromise on an overall (“omnibus”) budget bill, let’s see how well the bill did on the test:

1.     NOAA’s topline budget: Does it cover the costs? B+

Sort of.

In fiscal year 2013, the amount of money appropriated to NOAA was pathetic. For 2014, President Obama requested a budget increase for NOAA that would not only fully fund its existing ocean research and conservation programs but propel them forward. Even though the recently-passed bill increases NOAA’s budget from last year’s abysmal levels, it falls short of what the Administration requested by $125 million.

That shortfall increases when you consider that the bill allots $75 million as one-time funding for fishery disaster mitigation. As a result, if you look at the core annual NOAA programs, the effective gap is more like $200 million.

In the end, this year’s budget is better than last year’s budget – and a lot better than what the House originally proposed, which would have resulted in a $525 million shortfall for NOAA. However, it’s far from ideal.

For avoiding the worst outcome and taking a small step in the right direction, we give the bill a “B+” on this question.

2.     Is there balance between NOAA’s wet and dry missions? C+

Not really.

Some good news coming from this bill is that Congress has more than fully funded the National Weather Service. So the “dry side” of NOAA fared quite well.

However, NOAA’s “wet side” programs in the National Ocean Service and National Marine Fisheries Service took a significant hit. NMFS faces a $34 million shortfall while the NOS will have to deal with a $25 million shortfall. These are especially concerning figures considering the fact that these two services represent a large portion of NOAA’s wet side.

Here are just a few examples of what the ocean loses as a result:

  • Regional Ocean Partnership grants will be cut completely by the proposed budget, leaving coastal states’ coordinated ocean-use planning completely unfunded.
  • Ocean acidification research stagnates. Funds to study ocean acidification will remain at last year’s insufficient (sequestration) levels. This crucially-important scientific research helps coastal communities cope with the growing problem and enjoys broad support.
  • Endangered marine species left under-protected. Funding for the Species Recovery Grant Program has declined sharply over the last few years.. This year’s budget increases funding for the program only slightly over 2013 levels, keeping it far below historic levels and at a $12 million shortfall. The program provides money to states to help them manage threatened and endangered species such as right whales, monk seals, southern sea otters, and many other important animals.

For this mixed bag peppered with low spots, we give the bill a “C+” on this question.

3.     Does the bill attack the National Ocean Policy? C

Indirectly.

While the bill doesn’t explicitly attack the NOP, it conspicuously snubs it. The bill does nothing to help attain the NOP’s goals of smart ocean planning.

The NOP is more than just a NOAA priority; dozens of other federal agencies are involved in its implementation. Congress’s actions make it clear that neither NOAA nor The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, both vital ocean agencies, will receive extra money this year to deal with NOP priorities.

For leaving the NOP hanging, we give the bill a “C” on this question.


The bottom line: While the 2014 budget bill is a slight improvement over 2013 (on the whole) and a huge improvement over the appalling initial proposal from the House, it is far from ideal for our ocean. Overall, the bill gets a C+.

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Ocean Champion to Depart White House as Accomplishments Are in Jeopardy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/12/03/ocean-champion-to-depart-white-house-as-accomplishments-are-in-jeopardy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/12/03/ocean-champion-to-depart-white-house-as-accomplishments-are-in-jeopardy/#comments Wed, 04 Dec 2013 00:02:02 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7063

Today, President Obama announced that Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), will step down in February. Obama hasn’t named a successor yet, but that person will have sea-size shoes to fill – because Ms. Sutley has been a true champion for the ocean.

Ironically, the announcement of her departure comes as certain members of Congress are working to undermine one of her most important accomplishments: the National Ocean Policy (NOP).

As head of the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, Sutley was instrumental in creating the NOP, which ensures smart and sustainable ocean-use planning. The Task Force released its recommendations in 2010; those recommendations were then implemented through an executive order by Obama establishing the NOP. Sutley then set about developing the NOP’s implementation plan, which was released earlier this year.

Ocean Conservancy and our partners have been fighting to safeguard this vital policy. You can lend your voice by clicking here.

In addition to spearheading the NOP, Sutley also worked on important initiatives for Gulf Coast Restoration, clean water, and tackling climate change.

Nancy Sutley leaves a legacy of aquatic accomplishments that will make our ocean cleaner, safer and more productive for generations to come. Ocean Conservancy thanks her for her dedicated service, and we encourage the president to replace her with someone that will continue and expand this good work.

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Divers and Ocean Advocates Across the Country Speak Out for NEO, NOP http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:57:09 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7011

Photo credit: Heal The Bay flickr page

Recently, I told you about the opportunity that Congress now has to create a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP). The heat is on, as the members of Congress that will decide the fate of these provisions in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) convened last week. Since then, the chorus of voices calling for Congress to take these vital steps to protect our ocean has grown exponentially.

More than 74 diving groups, dive shops and individual divers – including prominent figures such as Sylvia Earle and Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau – sent a letter to the WRDA conferees today. Here’s an excerpt:

“As divers, we see firsthand the incredible beauty and, too often, the increasing burden our oceans face.… The WRDA conference will consider two provisions that significantly impact our nation’s oceans and coasts and the economies that rely on them. We support the Senate-passed National Endowment for the Oceans, which would help improve ocean health and maximize the economic benefits these resources provide our nation. We oppose the House-passed Flores rider, which would place damaging restrictions on the use of common-sense ocean management tools like ocean planning and ecosystem-based management found in our National Ocean Policy. To maximize the benefits of a healthy ocean and its vibrant economy, we urge you to include the NEO provision and strike the Flores rider from WRDA.”


These divers share a common belief that everyone benefits from a healthy and productive ocean. Few people witness the threats that our ocean faces more intimately than divers do every time they go below the surface. From ocean acidification’s effect on corals and shellfish to the staggering scope of the marine debris problem to the shifting of marine life due to rising ocean temperatures, divers see these impacts firsthand. They know that we badly need the smart ocean-use planning that the NOP facilitates and the funding for critical ocean research and restoration that the NEO would provide.

The diving community’s letter joins another letter sent to the WRDA conferees last week from Ocean Conservancy and more than 200 organizations and individuals from around the nation stressing the need for the conference committee to get this bill right.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of WRDA as the conference committee meets in the coming days and weeks, but it’ll take a concerted effort from ocean advocates across the country to ensure that Congress establishes NEO and stands strong in supporting the NOP. You can add your voice to the hundreds who have already weighed in here.

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The Most Important Congressional Action on the Ocean You’ve Never Heard of http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/the-most-important-congressional-action-on-the-ocean-youve-never-heard-of/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/15/the-most-important-congressional-action-on-the-ocean-youve-never-heard-of/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 13:00:07 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6955 Aerial view of San Miguel Island of the Channel Islands, California

Photo: Jonathan Hubbell / Photo Contest 2011

Right now, Congress has a major opportunity to protect our ocean and coasts. It can create a National Endowment for the Oceans and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy in one fell swoop.

How? Well, it’s a tale of two bills.

The House and the Senate both recently passed versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), but their versions are different. The Senate version would establish a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO), which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House version not only fails to establish this endowment, it guts the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP) that ensures smart use of ocean resources.

Soon, a committee made up of members of Congress from both chambers will come together in a “conference” to combine the two bills into a single final version. The ocean will either get a big win or suffer a big loss.

What’s at stake?

Following the recommendations of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, NEO would invest in our ocean’s future. The endowment authorizes grants to state, regional and tribal entities as well as academic institutions and nonprofit organizations to support ocean and Great Lakes research and restoration projects such as:

  • Restoration of wetlands, coral reefs, sea grass beds and watersheds
  • Mapping, monitoring, observation and modeling of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes systems
  • Adaptation to the impacts of climate change and mitigation of coastal hazards, including infrastructure protection
  • Research and monitoring of ocean acidification, hypoxia and harmful algal blooms
  • Conservation of sensitive marine, coastal and Great Lakes species and their habitats
  • Baseline data collection, ecosystem assessments and mapping for use in planning for new sustainable ocean uses and protecting ecosystem health
  • Planning for sustainable coastal development

To put the importance of this work into perspective, consider that scientists estimate that we’ve explored less than 5 percent of the ocean, that 91 percent of ocean species remain undiscovered, and that we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of the United States’ territorial ocean waters.

Moreover, NEO’s investments would create jobs and support coastal economies. They would also ensure that present and future generations benefit from the ecological, economic, educational, social, cultural, spiritual, nutritional and recreational resources of our ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.

Then, there’s the NOP. When it comes to making decisions that impact our ocean, every tool should be on the table for gathering and sharing information. The NOP is one of those vital, common-sense tools. It allows the entities responsible for ocean use planning to coordinate with each other, increasing efficiency and reducing redundancy.

The NOP also pushes ocean and coastal management out to the regional level, putting ocean management decisions in the hands of on-the-ground people and businesses that will be impacted by ocean management decisions. In the words of Sen. Edward Markey, opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.

Attacks on the NOP have ranged from hyperbolic to hysterical, with the latest one coming in the form of an amendment to WRDA offered by Rep. Bill Flores, who is not from a coastal district.

The “Flores rider” attempts to block full implementation of the NOP. It would prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key coastal and ocean management agency, from coordinating with coastal states, other federal agencies and the public as they engage in smart ocean planning.

Banning coordination between the Corps and these entities is misguided. Smart ocean planning is currently being used by several states – from Massachusetts to Oregon – with great success. Imposing such an arbitrary restriction harms states, the Army Corps, and the ocean and coastal economy.

A healthy ocean provides employment, direct economic benefits, recreation, wildlife habitat, cultural identity and indirect economic services like protection from natural disaster. Ocean Conservancy staff members are working hard on Capitol Hill to make sure the final bill is a win for the ocean and the people who rely on it. You can help by telling your member of Congress to support the National Endowment for the Oceans and oppose the anti-National Ocean Policy Flores rider in the WRDA bill.

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Nothing Beats an Astronaut and Oceanographer for Next NOAA Chief http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/06/nothing-beats-an-astronaut-and-oceanographer-for-next-noaa-chief/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/06/nothing-beats-an-astronaut-and-oceanographer-for-next-noaa-chief/#comments Tue, 06 Aug 2013 21:00:01 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6480

Kathryn Sullivan, President Obama’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The first American woman to walk in space. An oceanographer and acting NOAA administrator. Former president and CEO of Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry. These are just some of the highlights in the career of Kathryn Sullivan, President Obama’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Needless to say, she has some serious science cred.

This is great news for NOAA and all those who care about a healthy ocean. If confirmed, the agency will have strong leadership from someone who already has a good sense of the agency, its mission and its challenges.

With Sullivan’s background in both the ocean and satellites—which represent both NOAA’s “wet” and “dry” sides—she will provide the guidance needed to make the right decisions.

When it comes to funding and resources, at times these dual missions are pitted against each other. As I’ve previously written, Congress must maintain balanced investments across NOAA’s missions. Americans shouldn’t have to choose between weather satellites and ocean and coastal resources that support and protect our coastal economies and communities. NOAA’s “wet side” programs contribute to disaster preparedness and mitigation, and support severe storm tracking and weather forecasting systems.

With Sullivan’s background, we expect her to understand the importance of supporting both sides, while finding the right balance across NOAA’s missions.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Sullivan faces may be working in today’s political climate. Some lawmakers in Congress don’t have the best track record when it comes to supporting our ocean. Whether it’s working on fisheries, climate or satellites, these tasks take courage. This job won’t be easy, but who better to take that on than a woman who has already proven to be a pioneer?

We look forward to hearing more from Sullivan and urge Congress to swiftly approve her nomination. We need smart, savvy and tough leaders defending our ocean right now, and Sullivan is the right pick for the job.

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