Obama’s Fisheries Bombshell

An absolute jaw-dropping bombshell for nearly everyone having any interest in marine fisheries came late Friday (Jan. 13) when the Obama Administration announced it planned to move NOAA from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior.

The move comes not, as one might suspect, because NOAA Fisheries is failing in so many ways to carry out its mission, but rather as part of an effort to streamline federal agencies (and no doubt save federal dollars).

For many years, many of the justifiably disgruntled constituents of NOAA Fisheries (AKA National Marine Fisheries Service) have in fact called for just such a move. They note that — particularly compared to NMFS — the Fish and Wildlife Service under Interior has done a good job of managing our wildlife and freshwater-fish resources.

Now they may get their chance to see how Interior does managing a very different resource — marine fishes.

Or they may not: Congress will need to approve any consolidation of federal agencies.

If Congress approves and the move occurs, my biggest concern and fear will be that the very reason for the move — to save money — could leave our increasingly fubar’d marine fisheries in even worse shape. Interior will need more not less funding to try to restore effectiveness and reason to the management of our marine resources.

Otherwise, we'll have more of what we have now. And what we have now gets goofier and more preposterous by the day. But rather than adding to that, I would urge you to read a recent and very eloquent blog by the Coastal Conservation Association's Ted Venker — and see how, as Venker says, NOAA Fisheries just declared victory without running the race.