US President, Barak Obama, has announced a plan to abolish the Department of Commerce—home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) since 1970. If the plan is implemented, NOAA would become part of the US Department of the Interior.
The announcement has been met with mixed reviews by fishermen and conservationists, who are concerned for the future of the NOAA. Matt Tinning, Executive Director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, said:
"Fishermen around the country learned today that the President is proposing to move the task of saltwater fisheries management from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Interior. Such a plan raises many questions for our nation’s fishermen. Will agency leaders be diverted and distracted by the task of bureaucratic reshuffling at a critical moment for fisheries management? Will fishermen be consulted about the merits of this plan, which has not yet occurred at all? Will management of ocean fisheries be adequately prioritized and funded if nested in the sprawling Department of Interior?"Efficiency in the federal government is a worthy goal, and the Marine Fish Conservation Network and its members do not wish to pre-judge the wisdom of today's announcement. But it is critical for the White House not to treat NOAA and our nation’s fisheries as an afterthought in a reorganization plan motivated first and foremost by a desire to bring together the major agencies that focus on business and trade. Rather, the well-being of our fishermen, the health of our fisheries, and the future of our ocean must be directly considered on their merits. That includes weighing the possibility of NOAA becoming a stand-alone agency, as high-level commissions have previously recommended. Anything less would be a disservice to commercial and recreational saltwater fishermen around the country, who supply Americans with the seafood they love and contribute profoundly to our nation’s economic strength."