What’s everyone talking about in Washington, DC? Jobs, jobs, jobs. But it’s not about the jobs that we all hope the economy will be able to provide—it’s about the jobs being filled in the new Obama Administration. And, as I wrote to you in the fall, the cabinet job ocean advocates care the most about is Secretary of Commerce.
This week, President Obama announced a surprise choice for Commerce Secretary—Republican Senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire. Since neither the President’s introduction nor Gregg’s remarks yesterday mentioned the words “ocean” or “fish,” all of us who care about the oceans and their fishes are wondering what Senator Gregg’s appointment means for NOAA—the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that makes up 60% of the Department of Commerce’s budget, and the agency that manages the nation’s federal fisheries, from the cod of New England to the pollock of Alaska.
Usually the problem with new Commerce Secretaries is that they don’t even know that NOAA is part of their department. That won’t be the problem with Senator Gregg—he chaired the Senate subcommittee responsible for NOAA’s budget for several years, and he’s from a coastal state.
Senator Gregg has been a non-combatant in the fish wars that have raged in New England, as that region struggles to manage its fisheries responsibly. And he has supported the University of New Hampshire’s offshore aquaculture program, which has raised concerns in some quarters, although to date, the main product of that research has been offshore mussel farming, which does not pose risks to the oceans.
Clearly Senator Gregg’s main job will be to focus on the economy. But the hopeful news for the oceans is that when Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA Administrator-designate, brings ocean issues (and we have a stack of them for her) to the Secretary’s desk for consideration and decisions, she’ll be bringing them to someone who knows more about them than any Commerce Secretary in NOAA’s history.