Oceana Says Looming Government Shutdown Puts Our Oceans at Risk  - Oceana USA

Oceana Says Looming Government Shutdown Puts Our Oceans at Risk 

Extreme funding cuts and other destructive proposals threaten critical safeguards for our oceans and marine life

Press Release Date: September 28, 2023

Location: Washington


Megan Jordan | email: mjordan@oceana.org | tel: 202.868.4061

In response to the looming government shutdown, Oceana’s Vice President for the United States, Beth Lowell, issued the following statement: 

“Congress needs to do its job and pass a budget that keeps critical protections for our oceans in place. Each day of the government shutdown means existing programs that keep our oceans healthy disappear. It also means delays to upcoming protections like NOAA’s updated Vessel Speed Rule to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales from deadly boat strikes. Extreme members in the House of Representatives are proposing drastic budget cuts that would eviscerate essential protections for our oceans. We can’t continue to put critical safeguards for our oceans on the line because of political showboating and finger-pointing. The United States depends on healthy, abundant oceans. We cannot afford to let our oceans be a lost chess piece in the game of politics — there’s too much at stake. Congress must prevent irreversible damage to our oceans by passing a budget to get existing programs back online, while also avoiding harmful proposals and draconian funding cuts to needed protections for our oceans and for those who rely on them.” 

Oceana says the following programs are examples of what could be impacted by the shutdown: 

Safe and Legal Seafood Imports

  • Food safety inspections of imported seafood may cease or become more infrequent. 
  • Audits of imported seafood deemed to be at higher risk of coming from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) sources are likely to be put on hold.   

Offshore Drilling

  • Proposals are being considered to drastically cut a range of federal government programs to combat illegal fishing and forced labor in global seafood supply chains. 
  • Safety inspections and enforcement to prevent accidents on and spills from offshore oil and gas drilling rigs and pipelines could be put on hold. 
  • The federal government’s ability to respond to an accident or oil spill offshore may be severely curtailed, increasing the extent of harm to oil industry workers, ocean and coastal ecosystems, and coastal economies including fishing, recreation, and tourism.  

Responsible Fishing

  • Important work to assess and manage America’s fisheries, protect habitats, reduce bycatch, and rebuild fisheries may be halted, delaying needed management for the nearly 500 federal fisheries around the country that contribute tens of billions to the economy each year. 
  • Efforts to minimize and respond to deadly whale entanglements on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts could stop, including important work to support innovative on-demand or ropeless fishing gears. 

Marine Wildlife

  • Federal teams that develop safeguards for sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and seals could be prohibited from doing their jobs. This may delay rescue teams and the experts charged with managing these important species. 

While shutting down the federal government could have many harmful impacts on the ocean and coastal communities, the draconian funding cuts to environmental programs and harmful policy “riders” being proposed by extreme members in the House of Representatives would be vastly more devastating. For example:  

  • Consistent funding is essential to supporting cutting-edge science, research, and regulations related to our fisheries and marine species, and proposed cuts would cripple programs that are vital to managing species on the brink of extinction such as the North Atlantic right whale, a number of vulnerable shark species, and more. 
  • House legislation includes a policy provision that would prohibit NOAA from issuing direly needed protections for North Atlantic right whales from ship strikes and more. The bill also would block NOAA from studying the impacts of climate change on our nation’s fisheries. 
  • NOAA’s funding for programs that protect marine endangered species would be slashed by 43%.