Ocean Currents » congress http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Trump Proposed Slashing NOAA’s Budget—Something Amazing is Happening in Response http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/trump-proposed-slashing-noaas-budget-something-amazing-is-happening-in-response/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 20:02:19 +0000 Jeff Watters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13954

We know that the Trump administration wants to cut NOAA’s budget bone-deep, proposing a nearly one-billion-dollar budget cut for America’s world-class ocean agency. But something amazing has been happening in the days since those devastating cuts were leaked to the Washington Post: People are saying “No!”

Americans are making clear that they’re not willing to stand by and let NOAA get gutted. The agency’s work is just too important. And our friends and neighbors are starting to fight back.

Today, in a massive show of support for NOAA and the world-class scientists that predict our weather, explore our oceans, and protect our marine fish and wildlife, 371 organizations and community leaders from across America sent a letter asking Congress to just say no. The letter expresses “extreme dismay” at the proposed cuts, and asks Congress to block the Trump administration’s NOAA cuts from becoming a reality.

The organizations and community leaders who signed this letter come from every corner of America and every walk of life, from oyster farmers and state legislators to bird watchers:

  • Organizations and individuals from 29 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have added their voices to this letter. It got signatures from Montana and South Dakota to California and Florida.
  • It includes signatures from than 100 prominent researchers and scientists.
  • More than 50 national and regional organizations joined the letter, ranging from environmental groups to business and industry interests.
  • 22 members of the Maine’s State Legislature signed on, ensuring an especially strong shout-out of support for the importance of NOAA for the state of Maine and its coastal economy.

When the Washington Post reported on the devastating cuts that might befall NOAA, it was a major wake-up call. But the good news is, people are showing up and speaking out against it.

We asked you to send a letter to your Senator asking Congress to block these budget cuts and we are blown away by the response. Tens of thousands of people across America have sent letters to their Senators so far. And we’ve had hundreds more calling their members of Congress, too!

And you know what? It’s starting to work. A bipartisan group of Senators from Maine, Hawaii and Alaska have sent a letter to the Trump administration expressing deep concerns about the proposed NOAA budget cuts. If members of Congress keep getting more emails and phone calls each day from concerned citizens, those six senators will just be the beginning.

What happens next depends on all of us, and the chorus of voices supporting NOAA is growing.

Will you be a part of it?

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Why We Can’t Let Congress Dismantle the Endangered Species Act http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/why-we-cant-let-congress-dismantle-the-endangered-species-act/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/03/20/why-we-cant-let-congress-dismantle-the-endangered-species-act/#comments Mon, 20 Mar 2017 14:35:03 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13927

One of my favorite conservation success stories happened in the ocean.

In my home state of California—southern sea otters were hunted to near extinction for their fur coats in the early 1900’s. But miraculously, a small population of fifty animals survived, hidden from hunters on the Big Sur Coast. They were placed on the Endangered Species list in 1977, and this small population has made an unbelievable comeback.

Can you imagine an ocean without sea otters, manatees or coral? Right now, some members of Congress are planning to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, and we simply can’t let this happen.

Please take action now. Hold Congress accountable for the protection of our ocean species.

We owe the presence of species like humpback whales and Steller sea lions to the Endangered Species Act. For almost 45 years, this law has been a vital champion for saving and protecting some of our favorite ocean animals. Out of the 2,270 species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, about 650 are found only in areas outside of the U.S. and our national waters. Without the ESA, many of these would have gone extinct by now.

Today, the ESA continues to protect endangered sea otters, in addition to a host of other species. And we can’t risk backtracking on these important protections. Please tell Congress to continue the success of the Endangered Species Act and support ocean wildlife.

Thanks to the ESA, our kids will be able to hear a humpback whale call, enjoy a tasty meal of wild Salmon and know that monk seals still swim off the coast of Hawaii.  From safeguarding habitat to ensuring essential protections, here are some species being helped right now:

  • Beluga whale
  • Whaleshark
  • North Atlantic right whale
  • Loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles
  • 184 species of fish
  • 22 species of coral

If Congress succeeds in dismantling the Endangered Species Act we could completely lose many of these species in the near future—animals vital to healthy marine food chains and productive ecosystems. That’s why we need you to take action.

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A League of Her Own http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:57:27 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12942

“The ocean is a major part of my life, all our lives.” – Representative Lois Capps

Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps of the 24th District visited Ocean Conservancy, to speak not only on her legacy in Congress, but also her incredible contribution to our ocean.

Like me, Representative Capps is a Cali girl. Although born in the Midwest, she spent fifty years living in Santa Barbara as a nurse, educator and congresswoman, elected to first represent the Central Coast in 1998. In fact, Representative Capps spoke about enrolling her children in the Junior Lifeguard program–the same program I did growing up, the one that formed my love for the ocean!

Representative Capps demonstrates a dedication to marine conservation like no other, including advocating for marine protected areas, marine life and environmental education. She supported the expansion of coastal and marine monuments off the California coast, prevented offshore drilling and is a leader on the issue of ocean acidification. She’s even co-sponsored a long list of legislation, including acts protecting sea turtles, sharks and sea otters. And who doesn’t love sea otters?

Before Representative Capps was a congresswoman, she was a nurse. Her background lies in public health, and she understands the ways in which human health and the ocean are inextricably tied. Better than anyone I’ve met, she was able to communicate how human health relies on the ocean, just as the health of the ocean relies on us. (Did you know the devastation of the 1969 Santa Barbara Union Oil’s spill brought about the concept of Earth Day?)

During her talk, all I could think was “preach Representative Capps, preach”. Her calls to transition away from the burning of fossil fuels, mitigate the effects of ocean acidification and promote ocean education resonated with many in the room. Perhaps most important was her motivation to keep fighting for positive ocean change.

With the work of people like Representative Capps, I was able to grow up in a healthy ocean, along the coast of Southern California. My time in the water and the sand inspired a love for the marine environment, which ultimately led me here, to Ocean Conservancy.

Congresswoman Capps is a true ocean champion, a leader in ocean policy and an inspiration to future generations.

Thank you, Representative Capps for your vision, leadership and inspiration. We can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful visit!

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Mid-Atlantic Ocean Users Tell Congress to Support the New Ocean Action Plan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/26/mid-atlantic-ocean-users-tell-congress-to-support-the-new-ocean-action-plan/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/26/mid-atlantic-ocean-users-tell-congress-to-support-the-new-ocean-action-plan/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 19:17:06 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12514

What do recreational fishermen, research scientists, commercial shipping representatives, conservationists and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all come together at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean thanks to ocean planning.

Two weeks ago, over 20 ocean users from the five Mid-Atlantic states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the recently released Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.

These individuals came to D.C. with a simple message: the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan was released July 5th, and it will provide real benefits to our ocean, the states, and ocean industries. It offers 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. They asked members of Congress to support the plan, and to support their respective industries’ roles in the planning process.

Over the course of two days, these ocean users met with 36 members of Congress and the National Ocean Council to talk about the benefits smart ocean planning has brought to the region and will continue to bring. This visit was a celebration of the hard work the region has put in to the planning process, and also a chance to discuss with federal leaders the significance of this ocean plan. They requested support for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan and the efforts of ocean users like themselves who have been invested in this collaborative process with the goal of making better, more informed ocean use decisions.

What did the Participants Have to Say?

What were some of the takeaways for the people who came down from the region, and what does planning mean to different ocean sectors? Check out what some of the individuals that attended the D.C. fly-in last week had to say:

“It used to be that if we wanted to address an issue we, as fishermen, had to go to each agency individually: Coast Guard, Department of Defense, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and often we were left out of discussions. Ocean planning gives us a platform to participate in these discussions—this is an absolutely wonderful idea. We’ll be able to comment early in the process on vital issues regarding fishing and habitat. We’ll be able to address emerging issues such as the impacts of climate change on fishing and sand mining.”

— Jeff Deem, a recreational fisherman who serves on the Stakeholder Liaison Committee with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body.

“Before ocean planning the recreational boating industry was ‘invisible’ to state and federal resource managers. But we represent 185,000 registered recreational boats in Maryland. When I was learning to sail in the Chesapeake a container ship captain once told me your little sailboat is invisible to me, don’t get close to me because I can’t see you. As a recreational fisherman you may have an idea where you want to fish that day, but the fish move, so the recreational boats move. Having this one-stop-shop data portal is vital because we can see where the ships are going.”

— Susan Zellers, Executive Director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland

“Ocean planning is the most efficient and cost-effective platform for balancing commerce and conservation. It provides stakeholders an opportunity to identify their use of the ocean common grounds, while seeing how other uses might impact their activity.  Through ocean planning, any potential conflicts can be identified and diffused.”

— Carleen Lyden-Kluss, Executive Director of New York Maritime, Inc.

“Ocean planning is good business. What any business investor looks for is a way of reducing risk and increasing the probability that the project will go through. Ocean planning brings stakeholders together and reduces risks and increases certainty. We know we’re not the only kid on the block. We are committed to siting windfarms responsibility. We want to share our project plans and data, vet and test projects before other ocean users. We want their feedback. Ocean planning gives us the forum to do that.”

— Paul Rich, Director of Project Development at U.S. Wind

“Commercial shipping is undergoing an extremely dynamic period of change. We’re seeing global market fluctuation, larger ships, regulation, and growing commerce coupled with port and canal expansions. All these influences combined continually change routes and operations. Our members value ocean planning because it gives them a voice in decision-making and the opportunity to work together through agency commitments outlined in the ocean plans. We have already seen the benefits of this collaboration in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.”

— Sean Kline, Director of Maritime Affairs at the Chamber of Shipping of America.

What’s Next?

On July 5th, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body (RPB) released the draft Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan. They will welcome comments for 60 days, through September 6th. We encourage you to check out our blog on the plan release, and read through the plan for yourself! If you are inspired, we also encourage you to submit your comments on the plan.

Learn more about the Mid-Atlantic ocean planning process at the RPB’s website and their Regional Ocean Assessment, a great resource they put together during the planning process.


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Ocean Planning Brings a Taste of New England to Washington, D.C. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/18/ocean-planning-brings-a-taste-of-new-england-to-washington-d-c/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 11:00:43 +0000 Katie Morgan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12093

What do lobster fishermen, recreational boaters, research scientists, family aquaculture businesses and renewable energy developers have in common? They’ve all pulled up a chair at a common table to address important decisions being made about our ocean, through a process called ocean planning.

Last week, nearly 30 ocean users from five coastal, New England states came to Washington, D.C., to talk about the Northeast regional ocean plan with Members of Congress and the National Ocean Council at the White House.

These stakeholders came to D.C. with a simple message: with the Northeast on the cusp of releasing the nation’s first ocean plan on May 25, ocean planning is moving forward and provides real benefits to our ocean, the states and ocean industries. It offers 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.

Over the course of two days, these ocean users met with 27 members of Congress and the National Ocean Council to talk about the benefits smart ocean planning has brought to the region and will continue to bring. This visit was a celebration of the hard work the region has put in to the planning process, and also a chance to discuss with federal leaders the significance of this ocean plan. They requested support for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and the efforts of ocean users like themselves who have been invested in this collaborative process with the goal of making better, more informed ocean use decisions.

The Experience

What were some of the takeaways for the people who came down from the region, and what does planning mean to different ocean sectors? Check out what three of the individuals that attended the D.C. fly-in last week had to say:

“My job is to empower students in engaging with their community’s greatest asset: the ocean. What excited me about meeting with the Connecticut delegation was seeing shipping, commerce, fishing, and government all working together on ocean planning. Now I can honestly tell my students: our government and ocean users work together! There are possibilities out there for you!”

— Mary Horrigan, New England Science and Sailing (Connecticut)

“We had a diversity of stakeholders attend these meetings with Congress. Did we have differences of opinion? Of course, we weren’t 100% in agreement, but that’s the whole point. The key thing with ocean planning is that we have multiple stakeholders involved and a transparent process. Commercial fishing is everything to the economy of New Bedford. But it’s important to keep in mind that offshore wind and boating are also important opportunities.

— Ed Anthes-Washburn, Port of New Bedford (Massachusetts)

“We really all came together—recreational boaters, shipping, seafood farmers, offshore wind—we are all different, but by working together we provided a unified front. It’s a really exciting thing. The support from the Representatives and Senators from Rhode Island has been huge! We appreciate their rallying for this worthy cause.”

— Greg Silkes, American Mussel Harvesters, Inc. (Rhode Island)

What’s Next?

On May 25, the Northeast Regional Planning Body will release the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan and will welcome comments for 60 days. A webinar will be held from noon-2p.m. EST, during which the Northeast Regional Planning Body will provide an overview of the draft and describe the public comment period.

The Mid-Atlantic is not far behind either—we expect to see the draft Regional Ocean Action Plan, spanning the waters from New York to Virginia in July! Learn more about the Northeast ocean planning process at their website, and learn more about ocean planning at our website.

Ocean Users Gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, which will be released in draft form on May 25th Ocean Users from New Hampshire met with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Senator Ed Markey (MA) stopped by to talk about ocean planning at a reception for the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, and met with ocean users from across New England Greg and Mason Silkes stand with the Rhode Island oysters their family business supplied for a reception on the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse speaks about ocean planning at a reception celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Representative Jim Langevin met with Rhode Islanders to talk about ocean planning in New England Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Chellie Pingree (ME) Ocean Users from Maine met with Representative Bruce Poliquin (ME) Representative David Cicilline poses with ocean users at a reception on Capitol Hill celebrating the upcoming release of the draft Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Rhode Island Oysters supplied by American Mussel Harvesters for an event celebrating the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan Capitol Building, Washington, DC ]]>
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Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean Advocates to Leave Their Mark http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/18/inspiring-the-next-generation-of-ocean-advocates-to-leave-their-mark/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:39:07 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11937

Most college students like me are familiar with the all-too-common rollercoaster: late nights spent pondering the future, deciding how to leave our proverbial mark on the world. We feel weightless as the pieces of one puzzle seem to fall into place, but then watch miserably as those visions crumble, battered by new uncertainties.

But I have known of my purpose for years: to save the ocean.

Ever since I was little, I have found the ocean’s vast complexities intriguing. The ocean influences almost every aspect of life on our fragile planet—an awe-inspiring fact that is underscored as I learn more as a student of environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland.

Despite my passion to fight for the ocean, I have occasionally ridden that rollercoaster, questioning my capacity to make a difference. How can one individual really make a difference in saving the biggest entity on our planet?

I needed a healthy dose of inspiration, and quickly.

And inspiration is exactly what I received today at Ocean Conservancy, where I work as an intern with the government relations team. It was delivered by Representative Sam Farr of the 20th District of California, who has been a true champion of our ocean during his decorated Congressional career.

I listened in fascination as the Representative eloquently reflected on his ocean conservation journey. As a founding member of the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus, the Representative works to inform Members of Congress about topics from marine debris to ocean acidification. He has introduced robust ocean legislation and initiated the B-WET education program, nurturing the next generation of budding ocean enthusiasts.

The Representative stressed the importance of the individual activist’s voice, noting that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease…so we gotta keep on squeaking.” I am inspired to “keep on squeaking,” because the Representative’s tenure has taught me two significant lessons:

1. My generation is not starting from scratch–we are building on the strong foundation laid by Representative Farr and other ocean advocates. Ocean conservation is gaining ground due to the collaboration of Members of Congress, environmental nonprofits and other marine champions. Even whilst economic and international security issues dominate the political sphere, these trailblazers secure funding for ocean research, strengthen marine policy and expand environmental outreach: effectively giving ocean issues a vital seat at the table. Their dedication is lighting the way for others like me to follow.

2. Saving the ocean is in the best interest of all life on Earth. The beautiful thing about the ocean is that amid our growing differences, the ocean remains, reminding us that we are all intrinsically connected to everyone and everything. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, and live on the same globe–vital resources that are provided by the intricacies of ocean processes. There is no option to be or not to be a steward of the blue, because without it, we would be lost.

Congressman Farr retires at the end of 2016, but leaves a powerful message: “We need grassroots support to say our ocean is important. It starts with you.”

These are words that inspire me–and should inspire us all–to never doubt one individual’s capacity to make change. Rather, they are the words that keep us up at night, pondering not the uncertainties of the ocean, but the possibilities of saving it.

Thank you, Congressman Farr, for your inspiring legacy!

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Samantha Bingaman is an intern with the government relations team at Ocean Conservancy. She is a junior environmental science and policy major with a concentration in marine and coastal management at the University of Maryland, and loves to study and spend time on the coast.

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An Interview with Coral Reef Expert Danielle Dixson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/18/an-interview-with-coral-reef-expert-danielle-dixson/#comments Fri, 18 Mar 2016 20:58:16 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11714

There are some new champions for corals in the nation’s capital. Hawaii’s Senator Hirono and Representative Takai have proposed legislation supporting competitions that encourage innovation among scientists, engineers and coastal managers to develop new and effective ways to keep U.S. coral ecosystems and their neighboring human communities healthy and sustainably managed. We asked tropical reef ecosystem expert Danielle Dixson from the University of Delaware to share her thoughts on what this legislation means for coral reefs, the animals living there, and the people who rely on them.

OC: Tell us about your coral reef research and what inspires you to spend your days studying the ocean.

DD: My research seeks to understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they are able to use this information to make decisions on optimal habitat choice or predator avoidance, and the consequences these behavior changes have on marine conservation and management in a changing world. My research group has a particular interest in ocean acidification’s impacts on the behavior of marine organisms.

OC: Senator Hirono (D-HI) and Representative Takai (D-HI) have just introduced bills in Congress that establish prize competitions aimed at finding creative management solutions for coral reefs facing ocean acidification and the communities that depend on them. How might this legislation benefit reefs like the ones you study?

DD: Ocean acidification is a global problem, and therefore any measure that supports understanding future conditions or reducing the impact expected to happen in the future will benefits reefs worldwide. The bill’s specific emphasis on ocean acidification is particularly important as coral reefs are threatened by a number of human-induced changes such as overfishing, pollutants and rising water temperatures. Many of these threats can be understood and experimentally tested fairly easily; however, ocean acidification is happening slowly with large impacts expected in the future. If we wait for the future conditions to arrive before actually understanding what is happening and what impacts may occur, it may be too late.

OC: How might prize competitions help push research and conservation?

DD: The inclusion of prize competitions will help research and conservation immensely. U.S. educational institutions are producing bright scientists. Advancements in technology have allowed a number of innovative ideas, once thought to be impossible, become a reality. However, funding for research programs remains a limiting factor in experimentally testing research theories.  The emphasis of conservation through the prize competitions included here will provide the funding needed to evaluate important ideas. Prize competitions also often attract thinkers from unusual backgrounds, which can lead to unexpected solutions and collaborations.

OC: What else could Congress do to protect coral reefs, and how can concerned citizens help?

DD: There are a number of things that can be done to protect coral reefs; I think one of the most important steps Congress can take is continue supporting the advancement of research understanding underwater ecosystems. This can be done through funding research programs, and consulting with experts to help inform better policy initiatives.  Concerned citizens can impact coral reefs as well, regardless of whether they live near a reef or not. Making smart choices in terms of energy use, transportation and consuming local foods are things that can be easily incorporated into someone’s lifestyle. When consuming seafood, shoppers can choose organisms that are sustainably caught and managed. Voters can choose politicians that support the environment. Many people vacation near tropical reefs, and they can support sustainable tourism by making smart choices in their vacation plans.

OC: As you’ve spent your career studying coral reefs, tell us about your most memorable ocean moment.

DD: It is hard to decide on one moment, but I would have to say one of my favorite memories was the first time I went diving on a coral reef. Being from Minnesota I was trained to dive in a lake, with low visibility and very cold water. My first reef dive was done in Hawaii during my undergraduate studies. The colors and diversity of the fish, corals and other marine organisms had me hooked…I had to become a coral reef ecologist.

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