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Marine research under threat

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New plans to pull funding from Alaska Sea Grant a year earlier than previously announced, have inspired director, Paula Cullenberg, to issue an impassioned plea to fellow Alaskans to help save the marine research and education program.

Alaska Sea Grant is a partnership between the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration and plans by the Trump administration to cut all funding to its 33 projects by 2018 have now been brought forward by a year, placing the organisation under imminent threat.

In an open letter to the Alaskan people, Cullenberg explained: “You may know by now that the White House seeks to zero out funding for all 33 Sea Grant programs across the country in Fiscal Year 2018. In early March, we learned that the Trump Administration wants to cut 17 percent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which houses Sea Grant. Under that cut, the Administration would entirely delete Sea Grant’s federal budget of $73 million.

“Last Friday, March 24, the news got even worse. We learned the White House wants to also cut $30 million in Sea Grant funding from the current Fiscal Year 2017 budget. This would end the Sea Grant program this year.”

To support her argument, she pointed out the economic impact that the Sea Grant program had had over the years.

“Alaska Sea Grant generated $33,600,000 in economic impact during 2010 to 2015. For every $1 we receive from the federal government, we leverage an additional $4 from other sources. We deliver essential workforce development and educational services to thousands of Alaskans across the state.”

She added that the program had enjoyed “bipartisan support for nearly 50 years, enhancing Alaska’s fishing and seafood jobs, training Alaska’s maritime workforce, conducting and sharing science with coastal residents, promoting marine literacy and being trusted to provide science-based information about coastal issues.”

As a result, she is urging fellow Alaskans to write to their congressional representatives in a bid to secure federal funding and thereby safeguard the future of the organization.

“We urge you to contact the Alaska congressional delegation and let them know about your experience with Alaska Sea Grant and your opinion about the Administration’s proposal to end the program,” she wrote.