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A Voice for Our Ocean

Statement: Government shutdown closes NOAA and harms our ocean

WASHINGTON – The following statement was issued by Addie Haughey, associate director of Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy, in reaction to the partial federal government shutdown that was initiated December 22, 2018:

“Shutting down the government abandons our ocean and the people that depend on it. The impact of furloughing 6,000 NOAA employees is wide ranging, from halting ocean research and conservation to harming fishermen by potentially delaying fishing seasons. The shutdown could even leave stranded sea turtles without rescue.

Here are five big ways this shutdown is going to affect NOAA and our ocean:

  1. Fisheries management will go on with just a skeleton crew

While some employees will not be furloughed for the shutdown and will continue to carry out their duties without pay, the vast majority of NOAA employees that work to manage our nation’s fisheries will be furloughed. Stock assessments, permitting processes, and more will slow down or even halt.

  1. Water quality monitoring will suffer

Only a single NOAA staff person will remain at work during the shutdown to maintain the monitoring system that predicts and detects Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). With the red tide event that has been impacting Florida for months and other HABs occurring around the country, HABS forecasting is vital for protecting water quality, fisheries, and tourism and this understaffing could have wide ranging impacts.

  1. Ocean research will halt

Staff at NOAA labs will be significantly reduced, with a few people staying at work only to prevent damage and to carry on data efforts needed to protect life and property. All other areas of research, from arctic sea ice to tropical coral reefs, will suspend.

  1. Marine mammals may suffer

We know from the last major government shutdown that marine mammal rescue efforts suffer. Groups lose access to federal properties where animals may be stranded. NOAA grants, facilities, and staff are out of reach. We also know that nine Unusual Mortality Events are currently underway for marine mammals ranging from dolphins to seals, and hundreds of cold stunned sea turtles have already required rescue this winter. The shutdown creates an unworkable situation for our marine mammal first responders, and a deadly one for animals in crisis.

  1. The public may lose access to websites and data

Also a lesson learned during the last shutdown, without information technology specialists at work to manage websites and datasets, NOAA may be required to cut the public off from access to the information that taxpayer dollars provide. We pay for the data and information that NOAA collects and provides. Losing access to it does damage to businesses and communities.”

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Ocean Conservancy experts are available for media enquiries.

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.