For more than 50 years, the Sea Grant program has supported waterfront livelihoods and the people and places along America’s coastline. Sea Grant was established to help states responsibly develop marine commercial opportunities, in collaboration and concert with ocean and coastal research, to improve coastal communities’ prosperity.
Now President Donald Trump is proposing a $30 million funding cut for the 2017 fiscal year for Sea Grant. This would shut down the program for the year.
In 1971, Sea Grant came to Maine. It has since woven its support into the fabric of almost every fishery and coastal community in our state. By fundamentally understanding that local ingenuity and partnerships among fishermen, municipal planners and researchers can help tackle the challenges that face our resources and economy, Maine Sea Grant has spurred innovation for new technologies and tools for fishing and aquaculture and provided premier research for our state agencies’ decisions on investment and infrastructure. Maine Sea Grant also has leveraged the enthusiasm and workforce of university students to address real world challenges through applied research. Because of this program, we have nationwide safer seafood, a better trained marine industry, more productive fisheries, more resilient coastal communities, healthier marine ecosystems and a stronger coastal economy.
Maine Sea Grant has been a leader in addressing the threats of invasive green crabs, heavy metal contamination, and toxic algae blooms; the management of brook trout, striped bass, eastern oysters, American lobster, scallops, kelp, eelgrass, herring and smelt; and energy efficiency. This is only a small fraction of the important work made possible in part by the leadership of Maine Sea Grant. From helping to provide funding for genetic fingerprinting of lobster larvae to supporting the Penobscot Watershed Conference, this program has consistently been for Maine people, our environment and our future. Every member of our congressional delegation has expressed support for Maine Sea Grant.
This program also is personal for me. I grew up on the coast, and at Ducktrap beach in Lincolnville, my siblings and I would venture out to pick blue mussels and cook them over a bonfire. I am now a graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono and part of a project working on ocean and coastal acidification supported by Maine Sea Grant. The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership is a group working to organize and expand monitoring for our changing ocean environment and our threatened marine resources. Part of our mission is to help citizen science groups access the information and scientific equipment needed to accurately and with credibility monitor the marine ecosystems on which our communities depend.
Increasingly, our world, and indeed Maine, is driven by global technology, market forces, private interests and environmental consequences. Having programs that are able to navigate through these complexities, as exemplified by Sea Grant, is critical for the success of our communities and Maine’s way of life.
Parker Gassett is a graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono, where he is studying marine policy and biology. He is from Camden.