If there was one state in the USA that you would think of as not ocean, what would it be? For most people, that state would certainly be Arizona, which is far inland and has both mountains that are high above sea level and deserts so dry it’s difficult to even imagine the ocean when walking through them.
Yet, from a politician representing part of this profoundly non-ocean state has come legislation that pretends to know just what the oceans need – and what they don’t need. U.S. Representative Jeff Flake offered an amendment to a commerce appropriations bill. This amendment would have cut money from the budget of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The cuts would have slashed programs dealing with fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Other amendments offered by Flake on the same day cut other oceanic research programs at NOAA .
Shuttling back and forth from his offices in Arizona and the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Representative Flake somehow got the idea in his head that he was an expert in oceans policy, and could tell that NOAA’s work in the oceans is unnecessary. Flake’s decision comes at a time when ocean ecosystems are in profound crisis. Populations of animals we use for seafood are plummeting because of overfishing, pollution and climate change. Coral reefs are dying off. Dead zones, such as the one at the mouth of the Mississippi River, are expanding.
Jeff Flake’s amendment ignores all this, but then, it may be difficult to tell that anything is wrong with the oceans, when your view of the sea comes from an inland desert.