Ocean Currents

Government Shutdown is a Disaster for Our Ocean

News coverage from around the country reveals the crushing weight of the government shutdown

© Sindre Strøm/Pexels

As the federal government shutdown trudges on into the New Year, people from coast to coast are feeling the impacts of losing access to the many federal agencies that provide critical services to their communities and to our nation.

One of the agencies whose important work is suffering under the shutdown is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—our nation’s premier ocean agency.

Here are six recent news stories that cover the most disastrous impact of the government shutdown at NOAA and other key ocean agencies:

1. How the government shutdown is affecting Panama City NOAA lab

Dr. John Carlson of NOAA joined WJHB to share how the government shutdown has prevented his lab in Panama City from being able to collect or analyze data as part of their work to study and protect the marine environment in Florida. These same impacts are being felt in dozens of communities around the nation that are home to NOAA labs and facilities.

2. Government shutdown stalls red tide tracking

The Herald Tribune in Sarasota covered the impact of the government shutdown on NOAA’s ability to track Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Florida. The satellite imagery typically used by the agency is now unavailable due to the shutdown, creating a significant hardship in NOAA’s ability to track and address the ongoing red tide crisis in Florida.

Win McNamee:Getty Images
© Win McNamee/Getty Images

3. How the shutdown is reaching a breaking point, curtailing Coast Guard efforts

POLITICO recently wrote about the difficulties facing the Coast Guard as a result of the government shutdown. The Coast Guard’s ability to provide maintenance for navigational aids, conduct boating safety checks and ensure enforcement of fishing laws have all been affected. Making matters worse, the shutdown will soon leave the hard-working men and women of the Coast Guard on the job without pay.

4. West Coast fisheries science halted by government shutdown

According to King5 News, west coast scientists at NOAA have been forced to abandon their Canadian colleagues just a few weeks out from the due date on the next Pacific hake fishery report. Unable to even enter their labs, scientists studying these important fisheries are left uncertain about what comes next. It is very possible that the highly lucrative hake fishing industry could suffer.

5. ‘It’s ridiculous’: Furloughed Juneau residents frustrated at federal shutdown

The Juneau Empire interviewed NOAA employees in Alaska who are going without paychecks during the shutdown. In addition to the demoralizing feeling of not being able to carry out their usual work at the agency, many employees are facing significant personal hardship without their income—from delaying major purchases to facing family medical emergencies.

© Alison Stimpert/NMFS PERMIT 808-1735

6. With Key Government Agencies Shut Down, Science Sputters

NPR spoke with scientists around the country who are seeing the dire impacts of the shutdown on our nation’s entire science enterprise, from government labs, like the NOAA lab in Panama City, Florida covered above to universities and other science institutions. One California State University researcher, who studies marine acoustics, fears that if the shutdown continues to prevent her from deploying instruments for her work, they may miss an entire season of data.

The impact of this shutdown is devastating—from the personal level harms to federal employees and others all the way to risking profits of major ocean industries. It brings stark clarity to the importance of well-funded and healthy government agencies supporting ocean science, resource management and the communities and industries that depend on the ocean.

We will continue to track shutdown impacts, and when the government does reopen, we will be looking to see how NOAA and other agencies make up for lost time and try to recover from the worst effects.

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