FishOn: Trump looking to ax NOAA budget

Mike Springer/Staff file photo/Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, shown speaking to a crowd during a cooking demonstration at a past Seafood Expo North America in Boston, will return this year with her team to tout the city's catch.

Fresh from battering the Trump administration like a pinata over its (rescinded) plan to whack the U.S. Coast Guard budget to the tune of $1.3 billion, Washington D.C.’s loyal opposition now is taking up the cause of -- wait, can this be right? -- NOAA.

A dozen congressional members from coastal communities throughout the U.S. are lobbying the Office of Management and Budget to reconsider the proposed cuts of $990 million, or about 17 percent, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s total budget.

Cape Ann’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, is a signatory on a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney pointing out that the cuts could have a devastating impact on coastal communities battling sea rise and other extreme weather events.

“To disarm our coastal communities, many of which are already experiencing first-hand the effects of severe weather, is dangerous and short-sighted,” the letter stated.

The letter also decried the proposed $513 million in cuts to the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service and the gutting of the Sea Grant college program.

Oh yeah, and fishing.

“The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is also reportedly facing a budget cut, ensures safe and sustainable harvesting of seafood,” the representatives wrote. “From covering the cost of at-sea monitoring for New England groundfishermen to leading the salmon recovery effort in the Pacific Northwest, NMFS is a crucial federal partner in the effort to maintain viable fishing communities and a thriving seafood industry.”

So there.  

Do you come from a land down under?

We have just got to get our bad selves out to the other side of the world, where there is just some crazy stuff happening.

In New Zealand, the country’s parliament passed a bill recognizing the Whanghanui River as a living entity deserving of representation.

“Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people,” the BBC reported.

The mighy Whanghanui, New Zealand’s third-longest river, will be represented by a member of the Maori tribe and an official from the Crown.

“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson. “But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies.”

OK, if you say so.

In Australia last week, a saltwater lake in the middle of Melbourne’s Westgate Park turned hot pink.

“As water evaporates from the saltwater lake, it’s salinity increases to eight or 10 times that of the ocean (the Dead Sea is only about six times, by the way), creating an extreme habitat where few organisms can live,” the New York Times tells us.

The only living organisms in the lake are single-cell algae.

“When salt concentrations are incredibly high, (the algae) starts producing carotenoids, the pigments that gives the lake its color,” the Times said.

Scientists expect the lake to resume its normal color when temperatures get a little cooler. Or when pink goes out of fashion. Whichever comes first.

Also in Australia, a seafood company was convicted of animal cruelty for killing a lobster. Well, not so much for killing it, but the brutal manner in which it was killed.

The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper (by way of the Portland Press Herald) reported that investigators observed workers at Nicholas Seafoods “butchering and dismembering lobsters with a band saw, without adequately stunning or killing them.”

The Nicholas Seafoods facility is located in the state of New South Wales, which is “one of the few Australian jurisdictions to specifically include crustaceans sold for food, like lobsters, in its animal cruelty laws.”

The company was fined $1,500.

Boaty’s back

As you read this, Boaty McBoatface may be cruising the waters of the Southern Ocean in the first stages of the unmanned yellow submarine’s two-month mission to collect data on global warming’s impact on oceans.

Admirable, that. But regardless of what it finds, it will be hard to top the story of how the little British vessel got its name.

The story began a year ago, when the British government’s Natural Environment Research Council decided to let the public name the new research boat replacing the RRS James Clark Ross.

(Quick aside: Democracy is great and all, but it is inevitably a mistake to let the public decide anything. One need only peruse fan voting for any All-Star game. OK, we’re back).

“That plan backfired in spectacular fashion, with voters overwhelmingly supporting a name that failed to capture the grandeur that officials were probably going for: Boaty McBoatface,” according to the New York Times.

Officials at the Science Ministry, no barrel of monkeys they, were having none of that frivolity and named the research vessel after naturalist David Attenborough.

That’s a good name, but it’s no Boaty McBoatface. The public outcry was McQuick and McImmense. In an attempt to mollify Boaty Nation, the Brits slapped the Boaty McBoatface moniker on the remotely operated sub that ultimately will work in tandem with the David Attenborough.

See the seafood, be the seafood

Who doesn’t love a good seafood trade show? Lots of name tags and give-aways. Tons of free food and an atmosphere that hovers in that curious ether zone between business and almost-pleasure.

The mammoth three-day Seafood Expo of North America got rolling this past weekend and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken is leading a contingent of city officials and seafood businesses into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, spreading the mantra of fresh Gloucester seafood to anyone who will listen.

Romeo Theken is hosting an invitation-only reception with Nam Pham, the state’s assistant secretary of business and development and international trade, on Monday afternoon to highlight the partnership between Gloucester and the state’s economic development agencies in promoting local seafood.

Organizers expect the event will attract an international coterie of seafood businesses, from Ireland to Indonesia, that are participating in the Expo. The first reception will be followed in the same space by a larger Gloucester seafood demonstration event. 

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming

All members of the far-flung FishOn family are way down with March Madness, even if the true madness lies in the dubious belief that we might ever actually assemble a winning bracket.

We ventured into a local fishermen’s watering hole this week and plunked down our $10 to be part of the NCAA basketball tournament pool (for educational and recreational purposes only), the sawbuck giving us two teams to follow throughout the tournament.

If either squad won the darn thing, we would be in high cotton.

The teams were assigned through a blind draw just before the start of Thursday’s first game. Of course, we are but mere working stiffs and we didn’t get back to the establishment until about 5 p.m. to check to see what teams would lead us to glory.

Or not. 

Our teams were Winthrop (ouch) and Kent State (double ouch).

By the time we found out that our hopes were riding two sway-backed horses (and very possibly the two worst teams in the tourney), Winthrop already had lost to Butler and was probably in the air, on the way back to Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Kent State was readying to play Pac-12 powerhouse UCLA on Friday night in what was sure to be just as quick an exit.

Winthrop and Kent State? Honestly, where is the love?

As always, no fish were harmed in the making of this column.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanGDT

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