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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Jeff Watters

Jeff Watters is the Acting Director of Government Relations for Ocean Conservancy.

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Five Amazing Facts About Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Our Newly Confirmed Head of NOAA

Posted On March 6, 2014 by

Kathryn Sullivan

Photo: NOAA

After a lengthy confirmation process, the U.S. Senate finally acted earlier today to confirm Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to be the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This won’t be a big change for NOAA because Sullivan has been serving as acting NOAA administrator since February 2013. Sullivan is a superb choice to lead our nation’s primary ocean agency, and we are thrilled that she has finally received Senate confirmation. In light of today’s news, here are five things you should know about our new NOAA administrator.

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Money Down the Drain: Tallying the Cost of the Government Shutdown

Posted On November 1, 2013 by

NOAA research ship Ronald Brown

Credit: NOAA

The U.S. government shutdown began one month ago today. Thankfully, the government has been reopened, and the fiscal showdown is fast becoming a distant memory that we’re all trying to forget. But details are slowly emerging on the shutdown’s actual costs and damage. We’ve gotten our hands on some of that information, and when it comes to our oceans and coasts, it doesn’t look pretty.

Based on information given to us by sources within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the cost of just one small part of the shutdown—recalling NOAA’s fleet of research ships and planes—added up to more than half a million dollars.

That’s half a million dollars just for NOAA’s ships and planes to return to port and sit idle while the shutdown fight played out on Capitol Hill. That’s half a million dollars that will come out of NOAA’s already-tight operations budgets. And that’s half a million dollars that could have been spent on ocean research and conservation instead.

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Senator Booker Can Be a Champion for the Ocean

Posted On October 31, 2013 by

Photo: Nick Harris via Wikimedia Commons

Following his recent win in the special election, Cory Booker was sworn in today as the new junior senator from New Jersey. Booker will be filling the seat formerly held by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, whose distinguished career in the Senate included extensive work as a champion for the ocean. We want to congratulate the new senator, but also take a moment to highlight some of the important ocean issues that impact his home state of New Jersey and lay out our hopes for his time in the U.S. Senate:
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Three Ways the Shutdown Is Having Real Ocean Impacts

Posted On October 8, 2013 by

Credit: Drew Koshar

It has now been more than one week since the federal government shut down, and stories about how the shutdown is impacting the ocean are beginning to flow in.

Last week, I wrote on how Congress’s failure to reach a consensus on a funding bill would impact government agencies conducting operations in the ocean, and how government data utilized by scientists, fishermen and state and local officials would no longer be accessible.

But now, the shutdown isn’t just a theoretical exercise in government. It’s impacting both people and the environment.

Here are three examples of ways that the government shutdown is causing real pain and doing real damage:

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As Gulf Faces Tropical Storm Threat, Shutdown Keeps Oil Spill Experts Off the Job

Posted On October 4, 2013 by

Credit – National Weather Service: National Hurricane Center

Heading into the weekend, there are three very disturbing realities coming together that make those of us who care about the ocean very uncomfortable:

  1. Tropical Storm Karen is making its way through the Gulf of Mexico and heading straight towards a vast field of offshore oil rigs and pipelines. Parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are already under tropical storm watches and warnings.
  2. When tropical storms and hurricanes hit this region, they can cause a lot of oil spills. For example, the damage that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused to rigs and pipelines resulted in  spills totaling 17, 652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of petroleum products. Even more oil was spilled from on-shore facilities. Not to mention the fact that a major storm might also churn up submerged oil from the BP oil spill, sending it back onto our shores and beaches.
  3. Because of the government shutdown, many of NOAA’s oil spill experts – employees of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration – are furloughed and off the job.

Talk about bad timing.

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Government Shutdown Pulls Plug on Public Access to Ocean Data

Posted On October 1, 2013 by

Beach with caution tape across entrance

Photo: John Loo via Flickr

As the federal government closes down today—including vast portions of the agencies that help study and protect our ocean—the impacts are quickly being felt far beyond just the federal employees that are being sent home.

Non-government scientists, academics, state and local officials, and even schoolchildren who rely on ocean data provided by the government will find that many of the websites that deliver this valuable information have now been taken down.

In fact, if you try to go to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website right now, you’ll get a message saying, “Due to the federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated websites are unavailable.”

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Everything You Need to Know About How a Government Shutdown Will Affect the Ocean

Posted On September 30, 2013 by

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Mitchell, a rescue swimmer from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., is hoisted back into an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter after retrieving Oscar, a rescue training dummy, 50 miles east of Boston, Mass., on March 25, 2008.

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Terrell, U.S. Coast Guard

If Congress can’t reach consensus on a government funding bill by the end of today, the federal government will shut down. Today is the last day of the federal government’s fiscal year, and Congress hasn’t passed any bills yet to … well … pay the bills and keep the government functioning. So unless Congress gets its act together really fast (and it doesn’t look like that’s very likely), we’ll have a government shutdown starting tomorrow.

Regardless of your views on who’s at fault or your opinion on the fight over Obamacare, the result of a shutdown is clear: Many of the federal agencies that manage our ocean environment will close up shop and send their employees home.

So here’s a look at which of the government’s ocean activities would stay open, which would be shuttered and what a government shutdown looks like for the ocean:

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