Blue activists from sea to shining sea are coming to D.C. to fight President Trump’s anti-ocean budget cuts and other threats to our public waters. The biennial 6th Blue Vision Summit launches on Tuesday May 9. But this year is different. This will be the first large gathering of the ocean community since the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Our new President is a former TV celebrity and coastal real-estate developer who denies climate change, has promoted new offshore oil drilling while relaxing the safety rules, and has promulgated a budget that would gut frontline ocean agencies and programs.
That’s why, along with traditional marine conservation groups such as the NRDC, Oceana, Greenpeace, Surfrider, Blue Frontier and Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue, this year’s summit is also attracting more diverse stakeholders including businesses like Legal Sea Foods, recreational users such as the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) and institutions including the National Aquarium and Florida Oceanographic Society, along with large contingents of youth and students whose futures depend on the ocean, coasts and communities, both human and wild, that depend on them.
Unfortunately the President’s proposed budget is set to restrict knowledge of how our ocean functions while eliminating programs that prevent our public seas from becoming public toilets. Among the proposed cuts:
- NOAA – Cuts upwards of a billion dollars eliminate coastal zone management and resiliency funding, cuts the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and its climate satellite program while zeroing out the Sea Grant program that, like the Land Grant Program that helped America become an agricultural superpower in the past, is today helping create a sustainable blue economy through its work at 33 universities.
- EPA – Along with eliminating all climate work such as helping Native Alaskan Villages impacted by sea level rise, EPA’s one/third funding decapitation will also kill programs to control harmful algae blooms in the Great Lakes (that shut down Toledo’s water supply in 2015) and on the Chesapeake Bay.
- FEMA – Emergency Response can expect less money to respond to more frequent hurricane disasters, sea level rise and coastal flooding.
- USCG – The U.S. Coast Guard that was slated for a 14 percent cut by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget, until there was a massive outpouring of opposition after that leaked, is now left undamaged in his budget.
- DOA – The Department of Agriculture will lose over half a billion dollars for rural clean water and sewer treatment efforts while pollution inspections of giant hog farms will be cut. This will assure more polluted runoff and harmful algae blooms on our coasts such as Florida experienced for much of last year.
- NASA – Pollution impacts will be harder to measure, since NASA’s earth science program will also be cut by $100 million.
- CSB – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board will be eliminated under this budget. CSB investigated and recommended safety improvements after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
- State Department –Though not specified, the 28 percent cut to State would almost certainly see the elimination of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) that under Secretary Kerry expanded global enforcement against pirate fishing and helped establish vast new underwater wilderness parks (now under attach in Congress).
Blue Vision will launch a major campaign of opposition to these cuts and other threats. Among the threats it will focus on is stopping offshore oil drilling, ending plastic and other forms of ocean pollution, and promoting coastal resiliency in the face of rising seas.
Now, more than ever seaweed (marine grassroots) activists have sworn to commit their lives, their fortunes and their honor to restoring the blue in our red white and blue. Following the hottest year on record that saw one fifth of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals die from the worst global bleaching event in history the blue moment for citizen action has never been more critical.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the Summit schedule to date:
May 8 – People gather in the evening and begin schooling
May 9 – George Washington University will see a day of presentations, panels, networking, and education followed by theme dinners focused on continuing the conversations.
May 10th is the Healthy Ocean Capitol Hill Day with delegations from half the states including Inland Ocean activists from Colorado, Ohio, Utah and Arizona meeting with their elected officials to let them know the ocean matters.
May 11th will begin with a Symposium on the Future of the Ocean and move on to a Press Conference targeting offshore drilling and supporting clean energy on and offshore in front of the Department of the Interior.
That evening solution oriented ocean leaders from around the world will be honored at the 10th annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, often called the Academy Awards of the Sea.
For more on the Blue Vision Summit go to www.bluefront.org/bvs
For more on the Awards ceremony and dinner go to: www.Peterbenchleyoceanawards.org