Ocean Currents » congress http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Congress Wants More Attention on Ocean Acidification http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/01/congress-wants-more-attention-on-ocean-acidification/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 00:57:41 +0000 Ryan Ono http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10286

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, MassMatt

Last month, federal lawmakers signaled their concern for healthy coastal communities when six House Republicans and Democrats introduced a bill directing the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to assess the vulnerabilities of these communities to ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2553) takes an important step in helping these impacted individuals understand what acidification means for them specifically, and what can be done to protect themselves and their marine resources such as fisheries.

Although ocean acidification has generally been associated with oyster, mussel and clam die-offs, coral reefs are also threatened, and scientists are increasingly finding that important fisheries such as king and Dungeness crab, and summer flounder, won’t fare well in an increasingly acidic world. Given the millions of livelihoods at stake, we applaud Representatives Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Vern Buchanan (FL-16) who introduced the bill along with their cosponsors for using foresight in trying to get ahead of this issue, and protect the jobs and way of life for thousands of individuals and families.

No one wants to be caught unprepared for acidification as the Pacific Northwest was when it dealt with the oyster baby die-offs of 2005-2009 in its hatcheries.  Right now important fisheries such as the salmon, Dungeness crab and lobster fisheries in the northwest and northeast parts of the country are in that particular proverbial boat, as they have little to no science on the impacts of acidification.

Funding this research and science to support local decision-makers with information is also critical in fighting ocean acidification, and in fact, Congress is deciding how much to spend on acidification research and monitoring right now.  For context, last year, Congress funded the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) at $8.5 million for the year.  So far this year, it looks like this figure will hold steady thanks to Senator Maria Cantwell (WA), and Representatives Bonamici (OR-1st) and Heck (WA-10th) who led letters to their colleagues on the committees who make these funding decisions in support of the NOAA OAP budget which had a total of 64 members of Congress sign on in bipartisan support.

With these proposed assessments to inform communities from H.R. 2553, and the consistent support of federal funding, we hope our communities, coasts and marine industries can defend themselves from ocean acidification and continue thriving into the future.

 

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Diverse Stakeholders Deliver Unified Message to Congress and Administration: Smart Ocean Planning Makes Sense http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/27/diverse-stakeholders-deliver-unified-message-to-congress-and-administration-smart-ocean-planning-makes-sense/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/03/27/diverse-stakeholders-deliver-unified-message-to-congress-and-administration-smart-ocean-planning-makes-sense/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:15:04 +0000 Christine Hopper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10028

Stakeholders meet with Representative Kuster of New Hampshire (center)

Last month, 42 stakeholders from across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic came to DC to speak with Congress and the Administration about the benefits they are seeing from the regional ocean planning efforts currently underway in these regions.  Representatives from commercial fishing, offshore renewable energy, ports and maritime, shipping, undersea cables, recreational fishing and boating,  as well as research, education and conservation organizations, and more came together to deliver a common message – smart ocean planning makes sense.

These stakeholders met with 57 Senate and House offices, Senate Commerce Committee staff, the National Ocean Council at the White House, U.S. Coast Guard, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). In each meeting, the stakeholders  voiced their support of a process that gives them a seat at the table with state and federal government agencies to address management of their regional ocean resources and ocean uses.

The message was simple: ocean planning is moving forward and has real benefits to states and industries.  It provides a seat at the decision-making table for ocean users across the region and seeks to proactively identify ocean uses and resolve conflicts before they become problematic.   Anti-National Ocean Policy riders in Congress would undermine the ocean planning work that the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions have already invested in; these riders are motivated by political agendas from outside these regions that have nothing to do with the practical, pragmatic work being done.

These 42 industry, academic, and conservation representatives outlined their individual interests in the regional ocean planning work, stressed the need for further collaboration among the group, and asked Congress and the Administration for their support  in ensuring regional ocean planning work moves forward unimpeded.

Ocean Conservancy supports coordinated ocean management decisions between state and local governments and ocean users to establish a healthier ocean and a thriving coastline.

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The President’s Budget… What’s at Stake for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/02/the-presidents-budget-whats-at-stake-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/02/the-presidents-budget-whats-at-stake-for-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 02:19:58 +0000 Addie Haughey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9796

Photo: NOAA

Today, President Obama released his proposed federal budget for 2016, kicking off what will be a lengthy debate between the White House and Congress on how to fund the government for the next year.

It’s a big proposal, and inside-the-beltway fights over topics like sequestration and budget reconciliation often seem abstract and disconnected from what really matters on the ground. But things like budget sequestration DO matter. They matter a lot. And they matter for the ocean.

Back in 2011 Congress and the Obama Administration agreed to a series of harmful budget cuts called sequestration. The threat of sequestration was intended to force compromise by guaranteeing automatic, across-the-board budget cuts to the whole government if Congress couldn’t reach agreement on how to fund the government. These cuts were never meant to be implemented; they were put into place to force cooperation on a budget deal.

Since 2011, there have been a few times when Congress and the White House have reached comprehensive deals on federal funding. Just last year a budget deal led to important investments in programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Other years, however, failure to reach a government-wide budget agreement has had severe consequences for the ocean – in 2013 NOAA’s budget was cut by $160 million because a deal could not be made.

So for next year, here is the big question: Will Congress and the president reach a compromise that will protect investments in these important programs?

The president’s budget seems to indicate that he wants a deal. The proposed 2016 budget would reverse the harmful sequestration cuts, allowing the government to invest in programs that support a healthy ocean, coastal communities and livelihoods across the country.  That’s why in the president’s budget Obama proposes strong funding for NOAA, including the following

  • $50 million for regional coastal resilience grants – competitive grants from NOAA that support work to address changing ocean conditions such as chemistry and ecology, sea level rise and coastal inundation, weather hazard risks, new ocean uses, and increasing use conflicts.
  • $30 million for ocean acidification research – acidification is changing the very chemical nature of our ocean, harming many important species and the fishermen, shellfish farmers, coastal communities and tourists who depend on productive coastal areas for their livelihoods.
  • $163 million for fisheries data collections, surveys, and assessments that provide the basic information needed to sustainably manage our nation’s fisheries and end overfishing for good.

Today, the president is proposing to invest in ocean health, coastal resilience and people’s livelihoods. In the coming months, it will be up to Congress and the White House to come together and reach agreement so that scientists and ocean experts at NOAA can continue their important work.

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Ocean Voices Heard in Funding Bill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/12/16/ocean-voices-heard-in-funding-bill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/12/16/ocean-voices-heard-in-funding-bill/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:10:26 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9622

Photo: Cate Brown

Congress is often accused of not listening to the needs of the people.  But the people who depend on a healthy ocean made sure their voices were heard this year, and based on the recent funding deal, Congress listened.

Buried in the massive, must-pass funding bill for federal programs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) $5.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2015 includes an overall increase of $126 million with key investments in critical ocean programs that matter to people and communities. Congress delayed the decision for over two months as they hashed out a compromise between very different ocean funding levels in the House and Senate, but the deal struck this week puts the ocean on a strong footing for next year:

  • The National Ocean Service and National Marine Fisheries Service will each receive around $10 million in additional funding this year – modest but important increases that will help people who depend on data and monitoring from these departments.
  • Regional Coastal Resilience Grants will be funded at $5 million – these grants will help communities prepare for changes to marine ecosystems, climate impacts and economic shifts.
  • Ocean acidification research will receive $8.5 million, a $2.5 million increase over the current funding level – these dollars will support efforts to improve our understanding of how acidification impacts businesses and ecosystems, as well as development of tools to mitigate those impacts.
  • All attempts to undermine the National Ocean Policy (NOP) through harmful policy riders were removed from the final bill, ensuring that coordinated smart ocean planning processes  throughout the country can move forward.

These investments show the impact of vocal ocean advocates on Capitol Hill. Over 140 people who care about the ocean or depend on it for their livelihoods signed letters of support or came to Washington, DC to meet with their Members of Congress on the need to better understand and prepare for ocean acidification. Over 280 ocean users and advocates argued for the benefits of smart ocean planning, successfully convincing Congress to remove harmful attacks from the bill and to fund key grant programs that support work around the country.

Ocean advocates include aquaculture farmers, seafood distributors, fishermen, renewable energy developers, and shippers, as well as citizens who value ocean conservation, which includes religious groups, recreational users, local elected representatives, and tribal officials. What they all have in common is the understanding that without smart ocean planning efforts, research dollars to solve challenges like ocean acidification, and robust ocean conservation programs, the ocean resources and environment sustaining coastal communities and economies cannot thrive.

We also saw more ocean champions within Congress. For example, nineteen Senators signed a letter supporting coastal resilience programs, and 86 Representatives demanded the removal of all harmful NOP attacks from the final appropriations bill – that’s one out of five Members of Congress standing up for the ocean! These Members of Congress, from Hawaii to Maine, represent millions of constituents that benefit from and care about our ocean.

There is more work to be done – just 15% of NOAA’s funding increase for this fiscal year will go to the National Ocean Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. These modest increases are meaningful, but investments in NOAA need to be more balanced across the agency’s many important missions, from predicting the weather to creating resilient coastal communities.

 

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Stop Congress from Fishing for Trouble http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/31/stop-congress-from-fishing-for-trouble/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/31/stop-congress-from-fishing-for-trouble/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:35 +0000 Ellen Bolen http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8813

© Wesley Hitt / Alamy

We’ve made incredible progress in reversing overfishing. This has been good for both the environment and jobs in fishing. Through smart fishery legislation, we’ve been able to bring back fish populations that were crashing due to years of overfishing.

But all of our progress is about to be destroyed! In the House of Representatives, Rep. Hastings (R-WA) is working to reverse the very legislation that has brought our ocean and fishermen such success. Rep. Hastings is trying to pass legislation that would create a new law that would allow overfishing and would eliminate deadlines to rebuild fish populations.


We can’t let this happen. Decades of progress will be reversed if this new legislation is passed. Will you help protect our ocean from overfishing?

Please take action today and tell your Congressional Representative to vote NO to Rep. Hastings’ legislation when it comes to the floor.

Healthy fish populations are essential to ocean ecosystems and to the local economies that depend on them. Please take action today! Together, we can truly make a difference.

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The Ocean in Congress this Week: Good News and Bad News http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/29/the-ocean-in-congress-this-week-good-news-and-bad-news/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 17:57:06 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8416

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will debate the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill – an important bill for the ocean because it sets the annual budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many amendments will be introduced to alter the bill; as far as the oceans are concerned, there’s good news and bad news.

Let’s start with the good news:

On the heels of some very important steps to tackle ocean acidification last week, Representative Bonamici (D-OR) led the charge to ensure that this issue, which is threatening American businesses and livelihoods, receives increased funding from Congress.

A few months ago, President Obama called for increased investments in funding ocean acidification research and monitoring. Unfortunately the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to answer that call so far. An amendment offered by Representative Bonamici would have increased the funding level for NOAA’s Ocean Acidification research program from $6 million to $15 million – the amount that the President says we need, however this amendment did not pass the house.  These dollars would have supported critical research to improve our understanding of acidification impacts on vulnerable communities and businesses.

Luckily, the U.S. Senate still has an opportunity to grab the baton from Rep. Bonamici and support full funding for this research when they take up their own NOAA funding bill next week.

But here’s the bad news:

A Member of Congress from a landlocked district in Texas is continuing his efforts to thwart common sense ocean planning. Representative Flores (R-TX) introduced an amendment that tries to block the nation’s premier ocean agency, NOAA, from smart ocean planning and other activities to support a healthy ocean through the National Ocean Policy.

This amendment is the sixth attempt in the last two years by Rep. Flores to undermine smart planning for the ocean, but none of his amendments have become law – thanks to strong opposition from Ocean Conservancy members, the Obama Administration, and the U.S. Senate.

We need to hold strong against this latest attack. Being smart about how we use our ocean allows us to look at the big picture and work together to make informed, balanced choices for a healthy ocean and the millions of jobs and livelihoods that depend on it. Planning maximizes what we get out of the ocean while minimizing the threats to the ocean’s health. It prevents conflicts like wind farms being planned in major shipping routes, balances uses like sand mining and commercial fishing interests, and protects key biological resources without impeding the needs of our defense infrastructure.

You can help by telling your member of Congress to oppose this amendment.

It’s clear that we have a challenge ahead, but we are hopeful that leaders in the U.S. Senate will prioritize the people and communities that depend on a healthy ocean by funding critically important ocean research and planning.

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Attack on National Ocean Policy Defeated; Lost Opportunity to Create a National Endowment for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/16/attack-on-national-ocean-policy-defeated-lost-opportunity-to-create-a-national-endowment-for-the-ocean/#comments Fri, 16 May 2014 20:36:49 +0000 Anne Merwin http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8318 Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been talking about the competing visions of the House and Senate versions of a bill called the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Senate proposed to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans, which would expand scientific research, provide planning and resource management, restore habitat and much more. Conversely, the House proposed to gut the existing National Ocean Policy that ensures smart use of ocean resources.

See our previous posts here, here, and here. Thousands of you wrote and called members of Congress, asking them to safeguard the National Ocean Policy and to establish a National Endowment for the Oceans.

This week, after nearly 6 months of negotiation, a final deal was announced. Thanks to your help, the threat to the National Ocean Policy was resoundingly rejected. Champions in the Senate and White House heard you, and successfully negotiated to remove the “Flores rider”—inserted by Rep. Bill Flores who represents a landlocked district in central Texas— from the final bill. If it had been successful, this misguided attempted to undermine the National Ocean Policy would have prohibited 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. With this threat removed, the multiple states that are already working on smart ocean planning can move forward unimpeded with the full cooperation and participation of the federal government.

Unfortunately, the proposed new National Endowment for the Ocean was collateral damage in the negotiations. It is frustrating and disappointing that despite strong public demand and the recommendation of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, partisan politics derailed this opportunity to create a permanent, sustainable fund for our oceans’ future. However, we appreciate the Administration and Senate’s full-throated defense of the National Ocean Policy, and look forward to working with them to advance ocean planning priorities.

We are also pleased to see that the final bill does help prioritize the needs of coastal communities by creating a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers coastal resiliency program. This program spotlights the need for increased resources for ocean and coastal resilience, and takes a positive step toward enabling coastal communities to better respond to changing ocean conditions such as sea level rise, and major disasters such as hurricanes and superstorms.

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