Proposed Administration Budget Aims to Eliminate Sea Grant Immediately

Newport Harbor, Rhode Island

Newport Harbor © John Supancic

Loss of Rhode Island Sea Grant would impact state, University of Rhode Island

An unprecedented administration proposal to cut the national Sea Grant budget by $30 million effective April 28 would likely mean the elimination of the program altogether, including the Rhode Island Sea Grant program at the University of Rhode Island.

The cuts to Sea Grant and other federal programs are administration proposals to offset costs for proposed increases in defense and border protection activities. Rhode Island Sea Grant Director Dennis Nixon says this is the first time a presidential administration has proposed eliminating Sea Grant in a current fiscal year.

“The administration proposal to eliminate Sea Grant from next year’s budget was troubling to us, but not entirely unexpected,” Nixon says, “But this new proposal to cut Sea Grant with one month’s notice will have major impacts on ongoing research we’re funding, as well as work we are doing with a variety of industries that provide Rhode Island jobs, in partnership with state agencies, nonprofits, and private philanthropic organizations.”

“We’re hopeful that, thanks to widespread Congressional support for Sea Grant, these cuts will not materialize,” Nixon says, “But Congress needs to hear from Sea Grant supporters as soon as possible to backstop their own efforts to save the program.”

The elimination of the Rhode Island Sea Grant program, which is funded annually by $2 million in federal funding and $1 million in match from non-federal sources, and brings in nearly $1 million in leveraged funds, would halt research projects that support fisheries, including exploration of ways to reduce lobster shell disease, which impacts a $11.7 million lobster industry (2014 number) in Rhode Island.

It would also put an end to projects that support the state’s growing aquaculture industry, valued at over $5 million (2016 number), including projects that seek to prevent the outbreak of diseases affecting oysters. Projects that seek to improve both aquaculture and wild harvest fisheries would also be halted, as well as planned work to better understand harmful algal blooms that cause the closure of shellfish harvesting during outbreaks. Smaller research projects on better understanding the impact of offshore wind turbines on Rhode Island tourism, addressing beach erosion, and marketing seafood would also end.

Support would also be halted for outreach projects that seek to improve Rhode Island communities’ resilience to flooding and storms, that aid in launching a shellfish initiative at the request of both the state and the shellfish industry, and that provide legal research assistance to a variety of clients. Funding would be eliminated that supports college students pursuing training in the marine and social sciences and other fields.

Nine staff positions at the University of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University would be immediately eliminated, and several other positions would see their funding cut dramatically.

What You Can Do

Sea Grant programs are asking their constituents to immediately contact their members of Congress to advocate for protecting the Sea Grant budget this year as well as next.

In Rhode Island, please contact:

Senator Jack Reed: https://www.reed.senate.gov/contact

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/contact/email-sheldon

Representative David Cicilline: https://cicilline.house.gov/contact-me

Representative Jim Langevin: https://langevin.house.gov/contact-me

You may also find your members of Congress and Senators online at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and search by your ZIP code and https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ and search by your state.