Late last week, after a cliffhanger episode of will-he-veto-the-budget-and-close-the-federal-government, President Trump signed off on the fiscal year 2018 omnibus funding package. Thankfully, the omnibus was largely free of anti-environmental language and keeps intact National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) efforts to protect our ocean economy worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
NOAA’s overall budget came in at roughly $6 billion in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus, a slight increase from the fiscal year 2017 omnibus, and far better than the 16 percent cut in the Trump Administration’s 2018 federal budget proposal or the 20 percent overall budget cut in the administration’s proposed 2019 federal budget.
Fact is that despite administration interest in gutting or eliminating programs important to the safety and wellbeing of the 126 million people who call our oceans and Great Lakes coasts home, our Congressional leaders who see the on-the-ground value of this work are reticent to pass an irresponsible budget that strips states of the help they need to address big challenges like climate change. The 2018 omnibus reverses the president’s course, keeping intact:
- The Coastal Zone Management Grants Program, which funds states’ work nationwide to safeguard coastal communities from stronger and more frequent storms caused by climate change, protect fish and wildlife, and keep beaches open and water clean for tourists and residents to enjoy. State coastal zone managers also make sure proposed offshore industries are in line with state goals.
- The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, designed to protect and study some of the most biologically-productive places on the planet from the Hudson River to San Francisco Bay.
- The Sea Grant Program, which funds coastal researchers at hundreds of our nation’s universities to develop cutting-edge solutions to challenges like reducing the Great Lakes’ nutrient pollution and improving methods for Gulf of Mexico oyster aquaculture.
- The Marine Mammal Commission, an independent agency that for more than 40 years has helped lead marine mammal conservation off our coasts.
Funding for Regional Coastal Resilience Grants, which states and local governments use to prepare and recover from coastal threats, like hurricanes, and address regional challenges that, by nature, cross state lines, remains, but in a new line—the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. The omnibus continues NOAA’s ocean acidification program; ocean acidification is making it harder for many species of shell-building organisms like oysters and scallops to grow their protective coverings and survive.
The 2018 omnibus also—in a major advancement in the fight to combat illegal fishing and seafood fraud—will activate seafood traceability requirements for imports of shrimp and abalone into the United States. Shrimp alone account for 29 percent of U.S. seafood imports, by value, and are at high risk for illegal and fraudulent activity. The omnibus requires development of traceability requirements for domestic shrimp and abalone aquaculture producers in the U.S., creating an equal playing field and enhancing global traceability for these key species. These recordkeeping and reporting requirements will help to protect ocean ecosystems, as well as the U.S. and international fishermen who fish fairly.
And the fiscal year 2018 budget is clear of harmful ocean riders, which are provisions that can negatively impact important policy tucked into a “must pass” bill like a budget. The various agencies’ reports that accompany the budget bill give some indication of concerns—for example, there remain efforts to try and undermine the valuable work occurring under the National Ocean Policy—but the language is largely watered down from previous drafts.
Moving ahead, we need to build on the success of the fiscal year 2018 omnibus and prevent any redirection back to Trump Administration’s dangerous deep NOAA cuts.