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Lack of funding limits National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration response
It’s a stay-the-course message at Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other cross-border research partners are affected by the ongoing, partial U.S. government shutdown.
“Our cross-border partnerships with NOAA and other research organizations in the United States remain strong during this time, and we continue to work with all our partners to maintain necessary data collection and research activities across our coasts,” a DFO spokesman said in a brief statement to The Telegram in response to an inquiry about partnership projects specific to the east coast.
The shutdown south of the border began on Dec. 22, due to lapsed congressional appropriations (the U.S. Congress must pass appropriations bills to fund government activities). A sticking point has been funding for U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The U.S. Department of Commerce issued its “Plan for an Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations” on Dec. 17. Services and activities listed as not available include most research activities at NOAA, particularly those requiring current-year funding.
There are important exemptions.
According to the plan, real-time modeling — the kind used for hurricane watches and Federal Aviation Administration (U.S.) flight planning — continues unaffected.
There is also work ongoing to assure the continuous recording and ingestion of ocean and atmospheric field data, essential to maintaining the long-term weather and climate record.
Also of concern for DFO, the U.S. coast guard remains on duty and fisheries-related law enforcement activities continue. The same goes for fisheries observers and quota monitoring.
But 16 NOAA vessels were to be called in to port, and everything from headquarters administration to NOAA legislative affairs remains shut down.
As recently as Dec. 12, Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke about the importance of organizations like NOAA and cross-border research efforts, particularly in terms of the ocean environment and climate change.
“Our biggest challenges in ocean health cannot be resolved by one country or partner alone. These important scientific discussions help us better understand how ocean ecosystems work, how they are affected by human activities and how we can minimize our impacts on Canada's marine spaces and species," Wilkinson said in a statement issued on the heels of Parliamentary Secretary Sean Casey’s attendance at an event in Washington, D.C.
While in Washington, Casey met with NOAA acting administrator Admiral Timothy Gallaudet to discuss collaborative work, including the protection of the southern resident killer whale population in the Pacific.
Requests to NOAA were met with auto-replies. NOAA’s communications staff are not available during the shutdown.
As of mid-day Monday, there was no indication of when the shutdown might end. Members of Congress have spoken about the need to pass interim measures to address immediate concerns, including risk to the timely issuance of tax refunds.