Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
By Emily Persico
Trump’s war on science is taking a dip into the ocean with proposals announced on May 23rd to cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) by 17 percent. This would essentially obliterate the US Marine Mammal Commission, a federal organization devoted to restoring marine mammal populations worldwide.
“This service to the public, marine mammals, and their ecosystems would end,” says the organization’s chairman Daryl Boness.
Marine mammals wouldn’t be the only species at risk. The Fisheries Research and Management Program would lose $22 million and the Protected Species Program $7 million. The Sea Grant program, a program that funds vital university research and outreach programs connecting sustainable coastal economies to sound science, would be completely eliminated.
Nonprofit organizations are not insulated from these budget cuts either. Their funding is at stake with the proposed 31 percent budget cuts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some organizations, already promised federal funding for 2017, are unsure whether these grants will even be rewarded.
With all this uncertainty swimming around federal environmental programs, funding at universities, and even funding for nonprofit organizations, aquariums have more responsibility than ever to act as stewards for our oceans. And SeaWorld has stepped up to the plate.
As a private, for-profit business that funds their conservation activities independently of the government, SeaWorld is in a unique position that they are taking in full stride.
Gone are the days of gimmicky, circus-style performances. SeaWorld has newly committed itself to a show called “Orca Encounters.” This show, which accompanies SeaWorld’s orca breeding ban, focuses on the ecology and behavior of orcas with the goal of educating visitors rather than purely entertaining.
With this new show, SeaWorld has made a promise to help marine animals navigate a changing ocean and political environment.
“I hope the public response is positive, because look around—who else is stepping up to the plate?” says Candace Calloway Whiting of the Seattle Pi. “There are few options to rescue and rehabilitate whales and dolphins at present, and rescue groups struggle to find funds. The trickle of money that they operate on may soon dry up.”