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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Emily Woglom

Emily Woglom is Vice President, Conservation Policy and Programs, for Ocean Conservancy.

NOAA Funding Bill Gets Poor Grades When It Comes to Supporting a Healthy Ocean

Posted On July 16, 2013 by

Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Last week, I wrote about what to look for in the about-to-be released bills for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), including three questions to ask to determine whether the bill will support a healthy ocean. Now the House of Representatives has released its funding bill for NOAA.

As a former high school math and physics teacher, I thought grades were in order.

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Three Questions to Ask About NOAA’s Funding

Posted On July 9, 2013 by

This week in Congress, the House of Representatives will put forth a bill to fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 2014 fiscal year. We saw earlier this year that President Obama’s 2014 budget for NOAA would provide a bright future for our ocean, but the funding bill in the House paints a much grimmer picture.

How will you know whether the bill will support a healthy ocean? Here are three questions to ask:

1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?

Despite being one of the most important agencies to our ocean, NOAA has faced significant funding cuts in recent years, and it is likely that the House will attempt to steeply cut NOAA’s budget again this year. With the sequestration, NOAA’s budget is already hovering at 13 percent below the current request for $5.4 billion. This bill could demand even lower numbers.

NOAA’s mission of protecting, restoring and managing our ocean and coasts is vitally important to our ocean and coastal economies, which contribute more than $258 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product and support 2.7 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.

Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. Cutting resources will cost us—now and in the future.

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A Chance to Start Paying the Ocean Back

Posted On May 8, 2013 by

credit — Architect of the Capitol

UPDATE:  Good news! The Senate voted this afternoon FOR the National Endowment for the Oceans amendment with a bipartisan vote of 68-31.  Read on for more information.

Votes are taking place in the Senate today that could play an important role in the future of clean water and our ocean.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Superstorm Sandy, and the influx of marine debris from the Japanese tsunami have focused the American public on the ecological and economic value of our ocean and coastal resources like never before. Whether your interest is in protecting species like marine mammals and sea turtles, providing opportunities for beachgoing and recreational fishing, or supporting vibrant coastal communities, a healthy ocean matters. Given the environmental and economic importance of marine and coastal ecosystems, we should be investing more in monitoring, researching, protecting and restoring the vitality of these systems. We should be facilitating their ability to adapt to long-term change and their resilience so that they can better recover when disasters happen, whether man-made or natural.

The National Endowment for the Oceans and Great Lakes (NEO) is going to be voted on this afternoon as an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act or WRDA (S. 601).   Ocean Conservancy has serious concerns with WRDA as currently written, and efforts are being made to improve the bill.  While that it is happening, it is vital that we take the opportunity to underscore the importance of the National Endowment for the Oceans.

The NEO amendment would create a permanent federal endowment that, once funded, would provide a steady funding stream that states, universities, communities, and government agencies can count on to support ocean and Great Lakes research and restoration projects.  These investments will ensure that present and future generations benefit from the ecological, economic, educational, social, cultural, spiritual, nutritional, and recreational resources of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.

Here are a few key facts about the National Endowment for the Oceans:

  • The endowment would be administered by the Secretary of Commerce and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)
  • The endowment would distribute funds through two grant programs for activities to restore, protect, maintain, or understand the resources of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.
  • The grant programs include formula grants to coastal and Great Lakes states, and a nationally competitive grant program.

The grant programs established in the Endowment would fund projects to restore, protect, maintain and understand U.S, oceans, coasts and Great Lakes, including:

  • 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 habitat
  • 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

 

 

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Why the National Ocean Policy Matters

Posted On April 17, 2013 by

Credit: DigitalVision

Superstorm Sandy’s coastal destruction, the Japan Tsunami’s drifting debris, BP Deepwater Horizon’s gusher of oil in the Gulf and the declaration of fisheries disasters in New England, Mississippi and Alaska have taught us that these calamities affect not only the health of our ocean and coasts, but also the well-being of our communities and our economy.  We also know that disasters, both natural and man-made, will strike our shores again.

Investing in our ocean’s health will help not only respond to future disasters, but also better withstand their impacts. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the U.S. are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection, and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.  The levels the president put forward in his budget, including an increase to NOAA’s funding, are a step in the right direction

With the release of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan just this week, all levels of government, tribes and ocean-users can benefit from the increased guidance and coordination.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Regions can decide what they want – or don’t want – and what works best for them. Ultimately, a healthy and well-managed ocean and coast benefits everyone – industry, beachgoers, fishermen, divers and whale watchers alike.

Here’s why others say the National Ocean Policy matters to them:

Markian Melnyk, president of Atlantic Grid Development, LLC:

“Our business requires coordination on the local, state and federal level and listening to the views of affected ocean users. By engaging ocean users, and by providing data and information, the smart ocean planning described in the National Ocean Policy provides greater predictability, consistency and efficiency – in short, less time, lower risk and lower costs. For emerging industries like offshore renewable energy, it’s vital to know where things like critical fish habitat, shipping lanes and recreation hot spots are in order to avoid them.”

Edward Anthes-Washburn, Deputy Port Director, Port of New Bedford:

“Ocean planning is critical to the Port of New Bedford’s past, present and future.  The Port of New Bedford is the #1 valued fishing port in the United States, the premier staging site for offshore wind deployments on the East Coast, and a bustling commercial and recreational port.  We rely on strong and thoughtful strategic planning to balance those uses here in the port.  By the same token, comprehensive regional ocean planning is vital for all of our industries to thrive – without it, we risk conflict and chaos between uses.  More than providing a clearinghouse for information needed and collected by ocean users, ocean planning provides a forum and produces development options that make sense for all stakeholders.”

Paul Cooper, Vice President of CARIS USA:

“The more we know about the ocean, the better we’ll be able to protect and utilize its resources sustainably and reliably.  The National Ocean Policy helps ensure this happens.  The continued development and application of crowdsourcing ocean data and other ‘citizen science’ initiatives promotes efficiency and collaboration while strengthening our nation’s marine spatial planning infrastructure.  The engagement of the public accomplishes collection of data and outreach to users and contributors outside of the professions normally involved in sea surveying.”

Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind:

“For those of us with businesses and livelihoods that rely on the ocean, the benefits of the National Ocean Policy are clear. The demand for ocean resources is growing by the day. Renewable energy, commercial and recreational fisheries and maritime industries, among others, are all interested in the same waters. Many times these areas intersect, and conflict between uses could result without sensible planning.  The release of the Implementation Plan moves us one step closer to creating smart plans to guide us toward sustainable ocean development.”

Nathan Johnson, Director of Environmental Affairs for the Ocean Renewable Power Company:

“As New England regional planning begins and methods to involve stakeholders are investigated, our project serves as a positive example of collaboration between existing marine users and new industry. In essence, we have implemented many of the principles of smart ocean planning and have shown its success. By forging an early path of engagement and through continued diligence, new ocean users can contribute to increased sustainability and vitality of coastal communities.”

John Hersey, ARGUS Project Manager for SURVICE Engineering:

“As part of the community’s efforts to develop and apply innovative technologies to the understanding of the world’s oceans, we are very encouraged by the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan’s goal of efficiently targeting Federal resources and delivering demonstrable results.  Crowdsourced bathymetry –  or water depth and the sea floor information – is one such technology that can contribute to this goal and further serve all of the Plan’s guiding themes.  As our company continues to develop this crowdsourcing technology, we will rely on the National Ocean Policy to help further our goals by sharing and coordinating with fellow ocean users.”

Captain John McMurray, president, One More Cast Charters, writing in The Hill:

“Recreational and commercial fishermen would indeed benefit from the National Ocean Policy. It would help us address all the factors that stand to jeopardize fish populations, from habitat destruction to water pollution. While ocean-use conflicts between industries like fishing and energy development continue to increase, the NOP will help us manage these conflicts by planning ahead to help keep, for example, energy plants off prime fishing grounds and unique habitat, so that all sectors can coexist.”

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Five Reasons to be Hopeful About President Obama’s Budget

Posted On April 10, 2013 by

President Obama’s budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year was released today, shedding light on the Administration’s funding priorities for the coming year. While the budget has a long way to go before it is enacted, here are five reasons that the initial outlook for the ocean is promising:

1. The overall budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would rise to $5.4 billion from $4.8 billion after the sequestration.

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, it became clear that coastal resilience and planning for the protection of coastal communities is essential. NOAA’s habitat restoration and protection, and coastal resilience programs are key tools that we need to rebuild our coastal communities smarter and safer. Coastal wetland buffer zones in the US are estimated to provide $23.2 billion per year in storm protection and a single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water or storm surge.

Sandy will not be the last major storm to hit our shores, and NOAA activities such as coastal mapping, storm surge modeling and forecasting and restoration can provide the data, tools and other items necessary for decision-makers to plan for long term resilience and reduce future disaster costs.

2. President Obama’s budget provides the tools we need to end overfishing

The commercial fishing industry accounts for $32 billion of the US economy, and the sustainable management of fisheries is vital to ensure the health of our coastal economies and ecosystems. NOAA has made great strides toward ending overfishing by establishing annual catch and accountability measures in all US fisheries. The president’s budget acknowledges the importance of these efforts and provides critical funding for core data collection, catch monitoring and stock assessment programs within NOAA that are crucial to ending overfishing.

3. The budget also supports investments that promote well-coordinated ocean and coastal science and management activities throughout the country.

Regional Ocean Partnerships connect state and federal agencies, tribes, local governments and stakeholders to tackle ocean and coastal management issues of common concern, such as siting offshore energy, habitat restoration, coastal storm mitigation and marine debris. While the priorities, structures and methods of each partnership may differ to suit the needs of each region, they are collectively working towards an improved ocean environment and a stronger ocean and coastal economy. The president’s budget supports these partnerships, in part because two new partnerships have been created in the Caribbean and the Pacific in just the past year.

4. The budget provides assistance in targeting the increasing problem of ocean acidification.

The rapid acidification of the earth’s ocean caused by uptake of CO₂ from the atmosphere is making it harder for some species, such as oysters, to properly develop via the formation of their shells. Furthermore, it alters a vast number of biological processes necessary for healthy ecosystems and the coastal industries that depend on them.

Scientists are rapidly expanding our knowledge of the impacts of ocean acidification, and the president’s budget funds the Integrated Ocean Acidification program at NOAA so it can continue to increase our understanding of this emerging economic and environmental threat.

5. President Obama’s budget supports ongoing efforts to deal with Marine Debris

Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans, beaches and waterways. In its various forms marine debris includes derelict fishing gear, plastics and trash. Marine debris causes wildlife entanglement, ghost fishing, destruction of habitat, navigational hazards, vessel damage and pollutes coastal areas. Research has demonstrated that persistent debris has serious effects on the marine environment, wildlife and the economy.

The debates over government funding will certainly continue in the coming months, but this initial proposal from the Obama Administration is a great start for the ocean. Funding aimed at programs that support ocean health benefit both coastal ecosystems and the economies they support. At this early stage, the president’s budget is movement in the right direction on ocean conservation.