Last week, billionaire investor and political newcomer Wilbur Ross was confirmed as Secretary of Commerce, the agency that houses NOAA. Secretary Ross made some positive comments about protecting peer-reviewed research at NOAA during his confirmation process in a letter to Senator Bill Nelson. He also wrote, “One of my first orders of business will be to begin meeting with NOAA scientists to become fully briefed on what they are seeing with respect to weather and climate information and how the Department can ensure that the National Weather Service continues to make advances to improve the timeliness and accuracy of weather forecasting. I also look forward to meeting with scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service to learn how changes in ocean temperature patterns are affecting fishery stocks and allocation decisions. In addition, I look forward to learning about NOAA’s ongoing efforts to assist coastal communities in coping with changes in sea level rise and storm intensity.”
NOAA got some unsettling news late last week when, according to a Washington Post article citing a leaked budget memo, the White House will be proposing to cut NOAA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 by 17% overall, with even more devastating targeted reductions to specific programs and line offices. These include a 26% cut to the office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, a 22% decrease for the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services (NOAA’s satellite program), and the elimination of the Sea Grant program, which supports coastal research through 33 universities around the country. COL joined 2,000 other organizations earlier this month in asking Congress to oppose efforts to cut these programs deeply. We’ll continue working on this and will share more information as it becomes available. If you’re interesting in doing more to help support NOAA, you should consider having your organization join Friends of NOAA, which is made up of NOAA’s supporters, stakeholders, employees, and partners who join together to encourage Congress and the administration to adequately support the agency’s budget.
While there are certainly some difficult choices for this administration as they attempt to balance national needs and their priorities in the FY 2018 budget process, our consortium must clearly communicate the dire consequences of cuts like these to our security and prosperity. Our Ocean Priorities are a platform for just that, and we will be amplifying part of that message this week in our public policy forum, Feeding the Future: An Ocean of Opportunity. Last chance to sign up! I hope to see you there.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Study Finds Preliminary Recovery Of Coastal Sharks In Southeast US
A new analysis of population trends among coastal sharks of the southeast U.S. shows that all but one of the seven species studied are increasing in abundance. The gains follow enactment of fishing regulations in the early 1990s after decades of declining shark numbers. Now, says lead scientist Cassidy Peterson, a graduate student at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “We’ve shown that after over two decades of management measures, coastal shark populations are finally starting to recover and reclaim their position as top predators, or regulators of their ecosystem. Our research suggests we can begin to shift away from the era of ‘doom and gloom’ regarding shark status in the United States.”