Trump budget guts NOAA, slashes marine science and conservation efforts

U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, released on Tuesday, 23 May, includes drastic reductions in the budgets of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Those cuts could harm fisheries, ocean conservation efforts, and domestic seafood consumption, according to seafood and food policy groups.

Trump’s budget for the Commerce Department calls for cuts of USD 1.5 billion (EUR 1.3 billion) – the majority targeted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The budget for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service operations, research and facilities would be slashed by nearly USD 43 million (EUR 38 million), and the Trump budget cuts would also eliminate USD 250 million (EUR 223 million) in NOAA’s coastal research programs, including the Sea Grant program, which works with universities to support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, as well as healthy coastal ecosystems.

Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute, told SeafoodSource his organization has not yet conducted a thorough review of the budget cuts, but said the group supports full funding for NOAA.

“NOAA is a platinum-level sustainability oversight agency. Its work managing U.S. fisheries is recognized the world over as exceptional,” NFI spokesman Gavin Gibbons said. “Fully funding the essential services that NOAA provides U.S. fisheries is important to not just the future of the resource, but jobs associated with the stocks it helps maintain.”

However, NFI praised the Trump administration’s proposal to defund USDA catfish regulation, a controversial issue that requires imported catfish, or pangasius, to be inspected by both the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

“[It] shows just how much of an economic albatross this program is and has been,” Gibbons said, noting that the Government Accountability Office has criticized the program as wasteful and that the U.S. Senate has tried to eliminate the program. 

The NFI also expressed concern that consumer consumption of seafood could also inadvertently be impacted by the proposed significant reduction of USD 193 billion (EUR 172 billion) in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over 10 years. More than 42 million Americans use SNAP to supplement their food purchases. The proposal shifts some of SNAP’s cost to states, funnels benefits to the poorest people, imposes work requirements for some food stamp recipients and imposes fees on retailers.  

Trump’s budget cuts will also harm marine science and conservation efforts designed to monitor and improve domestic fisheries. NOAA’s cuts will include the elimination of a reef fish assessment in the Gulf of Mexico and an interjurisdictional enforcement program, and reduction in funding for Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grants and Interjurisdictional Fisheries Grants. Also, under Trump’s budget, Environmental Protection Agency programs including the Chesapeake Bay project, the Great Lakes Restoration Project, and the National Estuary Program would be eliminated. 

Betsy Barrett, a spokesperson for Food Policy Action, told SeafoodSource her organization opposed the cuts to the NEP in particular.

“The NEP is a popular competitive grant program that funds cleanup of estuary areas, especially multi-state ones,” Barrett said.

Also slated for elimination in Trump’s budget is the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which aims to reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, would be eliminated. And NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Program, which addresses coastal development, water quality, habitat protection and ocean governance, is also on the chopping block. 

There would also be a funding cut of USD 5 million (EUR 4.5 million) for NMFS’s National Catch Share Program, “which will reduce efforts to improve data collection in catch share fisheries and implementation of new catch share programs.” the agency said its review of the budget.

"This budget is bad for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishermen alike – anyone who depends on clean water, science-based research and accurate weather information,” Willy Ritch, acting executive director of Food Policy Action, told SeafoodSource. “The seafood industry and coastal economies depend on these investments in marine resources and there is widespread, bipartisan support for these programs. We are disappointed at the misplaced priorities of this administration in making these radical budget proposals."

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who outlined Trump’s budget to Congress, praised it as a “taxpayer-first budget” and said the administration looked at the budget process “through the eyes of the people who were actually paying the bills.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, called the introduction of the administration’s budget proposal as just “the beginning of the budget process.” He said he expected Congress to make major changes during its own deliberations on the budget.

"The gun goes off at the starting line when the president submits his budget, and then the jockeying, the posturing and the prioritizing occurs," Ryan told Fox News. "That’s what you’re hearing there. People with priorities pushing for their priorities and that’s what Congress does."


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500