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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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The House Draft Fisheries Bill Doesn’t Add Up

Posted On February 27, 2014 by

Photo: Sara Thomas

In elementary school, we learned through basic math that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. As we grew up, math became more complicated with different variables and formulas, but we always knew that 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 x 2 = 4. Fisheries math is not all that different.

Each year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use fishery math and science to determine how many fish can be removed from fisheries in a sustainable manner, and the number of fish that can be removed is called the annual catch limit (ACL). If species fall below a level that is sustainable, managers put in a rebuilding plan – a roadmap to rebuild the stock to a healthy level.

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Does the 2014 Budget Bill Support a Healthy Ocean?

Posted On January 18, 2014 by

Photo: NOAA

This week, Congress reached a compromise on a budget bill for fiscal year 2014. But does the bill support a healthy ocean? Let’s just say, if the bill were a marine biology student, it would need to get a tutor.

In the months since last October’s costly government shutdown, Congress has been busily debating how to go forward on major funding issues. Naturally, Ocean Conservancy is concerned with making sure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – and ocean-related programs in general – will receive adequate money. In the beginning stages of the debate last year, we laid out three critical questions that would determine whether the bill was good for the ocean. When the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed their versions of the bill, we graded them based on these questions.

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Challenges of a Changing Ocean: Can Congress Act in Time?

Posted On December 4, 2013 by

Credit: NOAA


The piece below was excerpted from an article by Tom Allen in Roll Call. Allen is the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and a Board member of Ocean Conservancy. He represented Maine’s 1st District in Congress for six terms and was a founding member of the House Oceans Caucus.


 

In a Congress marred by gridlock and partisan brinkmanship, a surprising opportunity has emerged to strengthen our nation’s ocean and coastal communities, businesses and environment. Congress should seize the moment and establish the long-recommended National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes.

Unless Congress acts now, the opportunity will slip away.

The House and Senate Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) bills currently in conference contain competing provisions — with competing visions — for the future of ocean and coastal management in America. This legislative conflict is part of our country’s broader ideological struggle, but with this difference: On the ocean, no state government, chamber of commerce or environmental group can exercise coordinated and effective leadership alone.

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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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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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