This holiday season, we at Ocean Conservancy have a lot to be thankful for. At the very top of our list is you—our members, supporters and partners—who make our work possible.
Thanks to your tremendous support (24,000 of you contacted your member of Congress in support of a budget deal that would benefit the ocean and another 10,000 signed a petition to President Obama in support of the National Ocean Policy) we saw strong outcomes for ocean conservation in the omnibus spending bill that passed House and Senate today.
A young boy who loved exploring the tidal pools along the shores of California’s Monterey Bay grew up to become a fierce defender of America’s greatest natural resource — our ocean. Yesterday, after more than two decades as California’s Central Coast’s longest-serving member, Congressman Sam Farr announced that he would retire at the end of the current Congress.
We are deeply grateful to Congressman Farr for his leadership in protecting our ocean.
Congressman Farr is a founding member co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, whose 67 members from both sides of the aisle work to educate the House about issues facing our world’s ocean.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.