UPDATED: This blog was updated with new information on March 16, 2017
Early morning on March 16, 2017, the Trump Administration released its proposed budget—often called the skinny budget—that alarmingly confirms what The Washington Post reported about the devastating cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Today, we learned that the budget for the Department of Commerce, which houses NOAA, would be cut by $1.5 billion. While the proposal lacks some specifics about NOAA’s budget, it makes clear that at least $250 million in grants and programs that support coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant would be zeroed out. The administration recognizes that these programs primarily benefit local stakeholder, industry and state– and they are cutting it out anyway.
Based on what we already know, NOAA faces a massive overall cut of $990 million to their operating budget. Cuts on this scale aren’t just “trimming the fat” to make the agency more efficient. They’re cutting straight to the bone.
Amy is a stream ecologist who, before working at Ocean Conservancy, conducted research focusing on small stream food webs and the predator and prey dynamics of salamanders. Amy has conducted research in Chile working with the government on invasive beavers and water quality issues as well as nutrient effects on small streams in the southeastern U.S. She also spent several years working on Waters of the United States as part of the Clean Water Act. Her work at Ocean Conservancy currently focuses on ensuring ocean planning is a coordinated, science-based policy to balance all ocean uses.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order that would start rolling back a rule under the Clean Water Act known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS). This rule enhances the health of our streams, rivers and ocean, supporting local communities and their desire for clean drinking water as well as fishable streams and estuaries. I have spent much of my life working on streams and water quality issues, I’m concerned this executive order will compromise local ecosystems and the clean drinking water Americans value and need.
Howard University is just down the street. As a historically black college in Washington D.C., Howard’s been churning out incredible role models like Kamala Harris (Attorney General of California), Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize for literature) and Taraji P. Henson (star of Hidden Figures, and also your favorite character on Empire).
Besides releasing class upon class of bad-ass black alumnus, Howard was also home to a trailblazer in the conservation field: Roger Arliner Young, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate degree in Zoology.
Despite grave concerns from all corners about his ability to lead an agency that protects the health and quality of life of Americans, Scott Pruitt is the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
His nomination raised red flags from concerned citizens to worried coastal businesses. His past track record had given us at Ocean Conservancy plenty of cause for concern, made even more acute during his confirmation hearing by his lack of understanding of fundamental threats to Americans’ health and the quality of our communities. Consider his dance around the issue of ocean acidification. He refused to acknowledge carbon emissions’ impact on our coastal communities, despite the millions of dollars it has cost oyster growers in the Pacific Northwest.
But Pruitt’s confirmation isn’t where the story ends. In fact, this is where it begins.
Trash and plastic waste is unfortunately everywhere in our ocean. From our coasts to the Arctic, to the deepest part of the ocean, marine debris is a growing, global problem. Without concerted efforts to combat marine debris now, the volume of plastic waste entering our ocean will only grow.
Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our ocean each year. Most of that is trash that is never collected, but instead is thrown into city streets or rural areas, or even directly into our rivers and seas. Clearly, the lack of effective waste management is one of the greatest challenges we face in tackling this global issue. Our research in 2015 revealed that if key countries in Asia Pacific improve their waste management, we could halve the flow of plastic into our ocean by 2025. Good waste management—including effectively picking up and sorting trash—is also essential for a future in which waste can be recovered and repurposed. Effective waste management can also deliver public health, economic development and climate benefits. But, what can we do to ensure this becomes reality?
A system upgrade that will help ensure there are plenty of fish in the sea.
There are many ways to have a good day out on the water. The ocean gives us endless opportunities to find joy, exhilaration and happiness—playing on the beach, snorkeling, diving and fishing. Most recreational fishermen I know measure their good days by the number and size of fish they’ve reeled in. But it turns out those numbers are important for another reason, too—that’s critical data that ensures there are plenty of fish left for not just for your next trip but also for your kids’ and their grandkids’ trips.
Recreational fishing is a big deal in areas like the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic. That means a lot of folks are out on the water and those coolers of fish start to add up. In 2015, 8.9 million saltwater anglers took 61 million fishing trips in U.S. waters. This industry is responsible for driving $60 billion in sales impacts into coastal communities through purchases like fishing trips and equipment, spending in hotels and restaurants.
In a time of uncertainty for people and the environment, I am happy to write that a positive step towards a more sustainable Arctic took place last week at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway.
Hurtigruten, a world-leading expedition cruise ship operator, joined international environmental organizations to launch the Arctic Commitment.
The Arctic Commitment asks businesses and organizations to step forward and call for a phase-out of polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping. The Arctic Commitment makes a clear challenge to businesses and organizations to spearhead the protection of Arctic communities and ecosystems from the risks posed by the use of HFO to power ships.