No Time to Lose: Update on Funding Bill

Congress must pass a full funding bill that provides robust support for NOAA

We may have just celebrated Halloween, but here’s something spooky that may have flown under the radar recently:

The United States government, including agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is still operating under the budget signed into law by the previous administration.

This legacy of an environmentally unfriendly administration has lived on, constraining resources the current administration needs to achieve key policy priorities to address climate change and protect our ocean.

Late last month, the U.S. Senate introduced their spending proposals for our government agencies, including NOAA. The proposed bills are a mixed bag for our ocean. While the funding levels provide NOAA with the resources they need to sustainably manage our ocean and coastal resources and support the Biden administration’s climate policies, this would happen at the detriment of our fisheries and the communities that have fished sustainably.

Tucked away in this bill is an anti-conservation rider that would give a congressional rubber stamp to delay much-needed action to ensure the red snapper recreational fishery in the Gulf of Mexico stays within sustainable catch limits. It also tees up another study on the fishery catch data, even though existing research is clear that we need calibration to make sure state and federal data can be used appropriately. This language sets the precedent that the fishery management councils can ignore the requirements in fishery management law and turn their backs on the sacrifices made by fishermen to sustainably fish in our ocean.

Government funding is set to run out on December 3rd, and it’s crucial that Congress pass a full year funding bill that provides robust funding levels for NOAA and does not contain any anti-conservation riders.

We cannot rely on a short-term funding bill again because our communities suffer when agencies like NOAA are not properly resourced. When NOAA is funded only weeks or months at a time instead of  the full year, the agency is unable to operate in a normal capacity. The distribution of resources can be disrupted, staff cannot be hired to fill vacant positions and new programs cannot be implemented without full-year funding. Every month that we do not have a full-year spending bill is a month when Congress is missing the opportunity to provide much-needed increases to our premier ocean and climate agency.

While the Senate and the House of Representatives agree upon similar funding priorities—including necessary climate action—they must negotiate one final time to achieve a full-year funding bill. It’s crucial that you let your member of Congress know that full-year and robust funding for NOAA is essential for communities across the country. It’s also essential that we don’t undermine our bedrock and successful environmental laws, like the Magnuson-Stevens Act, to achieve this goal.

Our communities rely on NOAA’s information, data and resources to prepare for our changing climate, ensure sustainable fisheries and address the environmental justice and equity issues that face our communities. Now, it’s time to take action and support NOAA!

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