The Maine Sea Grant program, which supports fisheries-related education and extension services, will be eliminated if the Trump administration's budget priorities are followed. IMAGE COURTESY OF MAINE SEA GRANT

Trump plan would kill Sea Grant program

ELLSWORTH — The Trump administration promised to bring jobs back to the United States, but planned budget cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration could kill at least 18 jobs in Maine.

At the Maine Fishermen’s Forum last weekend, Paul Anderson, director of the Maine Sea Grant program, said the cut in NOAA funding outlined in a memorandum from the federal Office of Management and Budget last week called for elimination of Sea Grant in Maine and throughout the nation. The proposed budget is for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

“We’ve been zeroed out,” Anderson said Saturday afternoon.

Based at the University of Maine in Orono, Sea Grant has a budget of about $1.8 million. Of that, $1.2 million comes from NOAA. The rest comes from state and other sources. Anderson described the program funding as “highly leveraged.”

Sea Grant supports a wide range of educational and extension services for fishermen, faculty and graduate students engaged in a variety of research projects and the general public.

The Maine program recently completed a round of funding requests for research proposals that, according to the program website, “link the scientific capacity of Maine with the needs of coastal stakeholders” and “support synthesis efforts that will integrate knowledge from diverse sources to summarize our current understanding of coastal Maine issues, identify gaps in knowledge and outline future research directions.”

According to Anderson, Maine Sea Grant currently has about 18 employees, including four administrative and support personnel and 10 extension service personnel.

“We lose all that” if the federal funding is eliminated, Anderson said Monday. He was speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., where he and other state Sea Grant directors were scheduled to meet with the head of NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric Research, which oversees the program.

Like almost everyone concerned with the NOAA budget, Anderson is perplexed by the impact of the proposed cuts.

“I don’t really know what the mechanics are to take the program apart,” he said. “I’m good at putting programs together.”

Sea Grant receives $73 million in federal funding to support coastal research conducted through 33 university programs across the country. Of that total, about $62 million goes directly to state programs to be disbursed locally.

“It leaves Washington entirely,” Anderson said Monday. “That’s what we like.”

Anderson will spend the next several days in Washington working to develop a strategy that will maintain federal funding for Sea Grant.

“I have a week to slay dragons,” he said.


Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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