Kathryn Sullivan, President Obama’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The first American woman to walk in space. An oceanographer and acting NOAA administrator. Former president and CEO of Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry. These are just some of the highlights in the career of Kathryn Sullivan, President Obama’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Needless to say, she has some serious science cred.
This is great news for NOAA and all those who care about a healthy ocean. If confirmed, the agency will have strong leadership from someone who already has a good sense of the agency, its mission and its challenges.
With Sullivan’s background in both the ocean and satellites—which represent both NOAA’s “wet” and “dry” sides—she will provide the guidance needed to make the right decisions.
Hammerhead shark caught for a population survey. Photo: Claudia Friess / Ocean Conservancy
While most people out on the water are trying to avoid sharks, I’m on a boat that’s looking for them. We’re trying to find out which shark species are doing well and which ones are in trouble.
The answer: it’s complicated. But one important piece of evidence is the information collected on scientific surveys of population abundance, like the one I’m on right now.
It’s my third year as a volunteer on the science crew with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I am currently on the NOAA ship OREGON II, a 170-foot research vessel with its home port in Pascagoula, Miss.
This is the first leg of the annual shark and red snapper bottom longline survey. The survey is conducted in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico from South Texas to the Florida Keys and along the East Coast up to Cape Hatteras, N.C. That’s a total of four legs lasting two weeks each.
The House of Representatives did not do very well when I gave them grades last week on their answers to three key questions about funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Senate has released their funding proposal—let’s see if they did any better:
1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs? GRADE: A
The Senate’s proposal would fund NOAA at $5.6 billion, $150 million above the President’s request for next year. That extra $150 million would go to mitigating the effects of fishery disasters declared around the country. The rest of the $5.4 billion closely aligns with the President’s request, targeting important programs like ocean acidification for long overdue funding increases.
Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. The truth is we need to be investing in these vital programs at significantly higher levels. However, in this fiscal climate, providing funding above the level requested by the President’s budget is a significant step.
This week in Congress, the House of Representatives will put forth a bill to fund the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 2014 fiscal year. We saw earlier this year that President Obama’s 2014 budget for NOAA would provide a bright future for our ocean, but the funding bill in the House paints a much grimmer picture.
How will you know whether the bill will support a healthy ocean? Here are three questions to ask:
1. NOAA’s topline budget: does it cover the costs?
Despite being one of the most important agencies to our ocean, NOAA has faced significant funding cuts in recent years, and it is likely that the House will attempt to steeply cut NOAA’s budget again this year. With the sequestration, NOAA’s budget is already hovering at 13 percent below the current request for $5.4 billion. This bill could demand even lower numbers.
NOAA’s mission of protecting, restoring and managing our ocean and coasts is vitally important to our ocean and coastal economies, which contribute more than $258 billion annually to the nation’s gross domestic product and support 2.7 million jobs through fisheries and seafood production, tourism, recreation, transportation and construction.
Adequate funding for NOAA is critically important to the health of our nation’s ocean and coasts, and the economies and communities that depend on them. Cutting resources will cost us—now and in the future.
A fisherman adds a red snapper to the pile on a dock in Destin, Florida. – Photo: Tom McCann
As fishermen, scientists, policymakers, and other ocean experts from around the country gather in Washington this week to discuss the future of fisheries in America, Ocean Conservancy and The Pew Charitable Trusts are releasing a joint report highlighting many of the stories that show how fisheries management is succeeding.
The Washington Post covered the report over the weekend, focusing on our belief that while fisheries management is working, we must also let it keep on working if we’re going to face global challenges like ocean acidification and climate change:
More complex problems loom, ones that cannot be solved area by area, experts say. “What we need to pay greater attention to is a changing world and a changing climate and what repercussions that will have,” Chris Dorsett, director of the Ocean Conservancy’s fish conservation and gulf restoration program, said in an interview.
That challenge is how to meet the enormous resource demands of a rapidly growing global population without destroying the natural systems that sustain us. In every aspect of this challenge—food, energy, climate, and protection of our natural resources—our ability to manage impacts on the ocean will make the crucial difference in sustaining the resources that we need to survive.