We are writing to express our strong opposition to the closing of the James J. Howard Marine Sciences NOAA Laboratory on Sandy Hook, New Jersey, beginning in Fiscal Year 2013 and urge all able parties to find a way to reinstate funding for this essential resource. This lab is a vital part of the local, national, and international marine science community and provides invaluable benefits to the...
We are writing to express our strong opposition to the closing of the James J. Howard Marine Sciences NOAA Laboratory on Sandy Hook, New Jersey, beginning in Fiscal Year 2013 and urge all able parties to find a way to reinstate funding for this essential resource. This lab is a vital part of the local, national, and international marine science community and provides invaluable benefits to the ecosystems of the Atlantic Ocean.
The decision to close this lab could not have been made at a more inopportune time. Our oceans, and the Mid-Atlantic region which this lab directly adjoins, are changing. For the first time in decades, there may be oil drilling in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean, most notably in Virginia. The U.S. Department of Interior recently announced lease availability for over 800 square miles of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. The shores of this region are the most densely populated in the nation. The fisheries, tourism, and recreation value of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean is nearly incalculable. Algal blooms, sewage spills, sedimentation, and the science of managing the Port of New York all fall within the scientific ambit of this region.
The research undertaken at the Howard Lab on these issues, and on ocean acidification and climate change impacts to marine ecosystems, are the foundation upon which informed decision making is built. Indeed, this lab was recently recognized by NOAA leadership as the premier state-of-the-art facility for conducting ocean acidification research on the East Coast. Moreover, research conducted at the lab is instrumental in ongoing planning efforts for the siting of the first offshore wind facilities in the United States. Both of these research priorities are stated as important elements in the Obama Administration’s agenda.
The bridges of trust that have been built between the scientists at the Howard Lab and recreational and commercial fishermen, businesses, and communities along the Mid-Atlantic coast strengthen the federal government’s ocean policy goals for this ocean basin. Finally, and most importantly, in an era of increasing environmental and economic pressure on our oceans and coasts, it should not be the policy of the United States to limit its own ability to study the ocean, learn about its processes, and educate the public.
The proposed budget also de-funds the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program in its entirety. The Prescott Grant Program provides funding for recovery and treatment of stranded marine mammals, data collection from living or dead stranded marine mammals, and operation costs and staffing needs for stranding centers. In New Jersey, the only facility that handles stranded or stressed marine mammals and sea turtles is the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine, New Jersey.
The Prescott Grant funding significantly contributes to MMSC’s staff salaries, lab costs, and animal food costs. Funding cuts would diminish the facility’s capacity to respond to strandings throughout the entire state of New Jersey. Marine Mammals strandings and the subsequent data collection can often be indicators of fish contaminations or ocean pollution therefore serving as a critical first alert to the quality of the water.
We, the undersigned, urge you, our elected officials, to recognize the need for the Howard Marine Sciences NOAA Lab at Sandy Hook, and the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, and ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that funding for these facilities is not cut.