Clean, healthy oceans and coastal waters that support vital fisheries, wildlife populations, coral reefs, and other habitats will sustain coastal communities and benefit Americans across the nation. But there is strong evidence we are failing our oceans:
* We only know the status of one-third of the more than 900 fish populations commercially manage in the US.
* Globally, about 25 percent of the commercial fish catch (44 billion pounds) is comprised of sea turtles, marine mammals, sea birds, and other fish incidentally caught as wasted catch and killed.
* In Alaska waters alone, it is estimated that more than one million pounds of corals and sponges are removed from the seafloor every year by commercial fishing.
* Every summer, nutrient pollution causes a dead zone the size of Massachusetts in the Gulf of Mexico.
These facts, along with others, should spur a strong commitment to solve these problems and return our oceans and coasts to good health. It is difficult to see the commitment in the budget documents provided to date. Unfortunately, four days after the Administration’s budget was released, we know more about future spending plans for exploration on Mars than we do for ocean protection on Earth – the Blue Planet.
The Administration has still not released its detailed budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency responsible for ocean and fishery management. NOAA’s budget is cut $300 million – an eight percent decrease. The little information we have reveals deep cuts for ocean and coastal conservation activities at NOAA.
National Ocean Service
First, President Bush's budget proposes a debilitating cut of $212 million from FY 2004 enacted levels for the National Ocean Service. This is a 35 percent decrease. Critical NOS programs and activities include harmful algal bloom research, oil spill damage assessments and restoration, coastal zone management grants, national marine sanctuaries, and estuary research/conservation. A 35 percent reduction will further impair our beaches and coastal waters Americans use for swimming, boating, fishing and other recreation.
* FY 05 request: $394 Million
* FY 04 enacted: $606 Million
* FY 03 enacted: $498 Million
* FY 02 enacted: $502 Million
National Marine Fisheries Service:
Second, The Bush budget request calls for a $25 million decrease from FY 2004 enacted levels for the agency’s fisheries and protected species activities. Funding to improve data collection, protect and restore fish habitats, minimize wasted catch, end overfishing, and protect at-risk sea life is desperately needed. We need more eyes on the ocean to examine and correct our ocean management failures. A four percent cut suggests the Administration is looking away.
* FY 05 request: $735 Million
* FY 04 enacted: $760 Million
* FY 03 enacted: $811 Million
* FY 02 enacted: $713 Million
And finally, while the Bush Administration has made a point of highlighting small funding increases in some salmon programs, these few specific increases don’t mask the fact that the President’s budget request for Columbia River Basin Salmon Recovery represents a four percent decrease from funding levels enacted in FY 2004 and a 40 percent shortfall of what’s actually required to implement the Federal Salmon Plan this year. These overall funding decreases throughout the Columbia Basin tell the real story: When it comes to recovering Pacific Northwest salmon, the Bush Administration is on a timeline of failure. For more information, I encourage you to check out a recently-released document "Timeline of Failure", prepared by Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition.
In summary, the Earth is called the Blue Planet for a reason – oceans make up more than 70 percent and along with other waters are essential to all life on the planet. There is compelling evidence our oceans and coasts are in crisis. We aren’t going to solve this crisis by accepting the Administration’s deep cuts in critical ocean and coastal conservation programs and activities.