Oceans Caught in the Undertow of the Wave of Debt

Last week the House Committee on Appropriations met to mark-up and vote on Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce. By the end of the week, major cuts had to be made, and these cuts greatly impact our oceans. We need to speak up and ask for more money, and thus more attention to and protection of, the oceans.

Here’s the breakdown: within the Committee on Appropriations, the above Departments fall under the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, and Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), respectively. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is one of many agencies under the Department of the Interior, while the Department of Commerce is the umbrella department for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Marine Conservation Institute cares particularly for these agencies because of their work to restore and preserve our oceans and coasts. Together they manage our nation’s four marine national monuments, protect endangered species, and rid ecosystems of invasive species. Of course, these agencies do far more than that, in researching and conserving our nation’s natural resources.

Immense cuts have been proposed for both the USFWS and NOAA. The majority of the members of Congress want to drastically cut budgets where they see fit, in an effort to decrease our growing debt. While it is crucial to reduce this year’s deficit, and help solve our nation’s financial crises, the CJS appropriations bill for FY12 leaves the NOAA budget at its lowest level since 2005. NOAA’s core operations account has been reduced by $450 million. In addition to cutting back funds across the board, some programs are in more critical condition than others. Initiatives like sustainable fisheries, cleaner and safer shipping regulations, and research that can help determine and improve future efforts to protect and preserve our ocean economy, are all at risk. The success of wildlife refuges and marine monument programs is also vulnerable, as indicated in USFWS’s budget for operations and maintenance which was cut by almost $37 million from last year’s amount.

Despite this discouraging outlook, the battle isn’t over. Last week only marked the end of discussion within the Appropriations Committee; On August 2nd, the appropriations bill will go before the House floor for a final vote. It’s not too late to call, send a letter, fax, email, text message, tweet, or Facebook message to your representative! Tell him/her that the proposed budgets for NOAA and USFWS are so low that the chance of these agencies successfully managing their initiatives is slim. If you’d like, feel free to use the following script:

Dear Congressman/Congresswoman ________:

My name is _________, and I’m calling today to voice concern over Fiscal Year 2012’s budget, particularly appropriations involving the oceans. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are both receiving a huge cut in funding. With oil spills, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, plastic and pollution filling every square inch of ocean, and endangered plants and animals, NOAA and USFWS need funding now more than ever for its ocean programs. We need protection of our wildlife and our water, before it’s too late. Please don’t let this pressing issue get brought in with the rising tide of spending cuts.

Sincerely,

­­­­________________, of the ____ district of ________

Act now, and be an integral part of the effort to protect our oceans!

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