Back in March we found out that the Trump administration wants to cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget by nearly $1 billion. This shocking revelation sparked confusion, concern and anger around the country not only from scientists who study the ocean but also ocean industry leaders, beachgoers and ocean lovers.
Here at Ocean Conservancy we channeled that frustration into action. We called on the U.S. Congress to reject these harmful cuts and fund ocean, coastal, and fisheries programs at NOAA at or above current levels.
After thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls and texts, this week we started to see some good results. The United States Senate has flatly rejected proposed cuts to critical programs at NOAA. It proposes keeping funding levels steady for almost all ocean, coastal and fisheries programs at NOAA. In fact, the Senate proposal would provide additional strategic investments in several key areas including Ocean Acidification, Sea Grant, Marine Debris and the National Estuarine Research Reserves.
We are grateful for leaders like Senator Shaheen (D-NH), the Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee that handles NOAA’s budget, who felt that the senate could do even better. She offered an amendment that would have invested an additional $470 million in NOAA, from Regional Coastal Resilience Grants to funding to alleviate fisheries disasters around the country. While the amendment unfortunately failed to pass, Sen. Shaheen also urged the Congress to reach a budget deal that raises the harsh budget caps currently in place for next year so additional investments can be made. Who knows whether such a deal can be reached, but it would certainly be good for the ocean if it were.
So what’s next? Now that the House and the Senate have both produced proposed budgets for NOAA for next year, they will start to move towards reconciling the differences between the two. You will recall that the House proposed cutting funds for NOAA as did the Trump administration.
The most important thing that ocean lovers who support NOAA can do now is push for the Senate proposed funding levels to be approved by Congress as the final budget for the agency for next year. We will be working in the coming weeks and months to reach out to Senators and encourage them to hold strong through these complicated and high level negotiations. People like you and me across the country have fought hard for NOAA. It’s working. This fight is not over yet but we are one step closer to ensuring that harmful cuts to NOAA’s ocean programs do not become a reality for our nation’s premier ocean agency.