Stand up for Sea Grant

Some things are hard to put a price on, and even harder sometimes to define.

And many things are just not appreciated until they are gone.

This is the case with Louisiana Sea Grant, a program – or more accurately a web of programs – that aid men and women who make a living on, near and around the water. Education, research, creation of networks and other benefits inure to coastal communities through Sea Grants all over the country.

The one here, in Louisiana, has been especially busy because the times make this a necessity. For years now, Sea Grant reps have been working with commercial fishermen throughout Louisiana, offering ways for them to maximize the value of their catch through internet-assisted direct sales to consumers. Development of gear better suited for protection of wildlife like turtles, while still allowing for fishermen to bring in their shrimp, and testing that gear out under real conditions. Solutions like this are ever more needed, when one considers the pressures of low-priced imports and the demands by environmental organizations that bycatch be better protected. In this way, Sea Grant has served as a direct link between NOAA and the people the agency regulates.

For years now a local face of Sea Grant has been Julie Falgout, who once shrimped gulf waters with her husband, Dean, but who now makes a living counseling fishermen, and connecting them to programs from agencies and institutions that can help them better make a living.

Sea Grant and its employees became priceless assets during the tragic 2010 BP oil spill. Pre-existing networks made it much easier for fishermen to participate in clean-up programs, and communications

At any given time, Louisiana Sea Grant manages or participates in more than 50 research, extension, education and communication projects across the coastal landscape. For more than 40 years, the program’s efforts have addressed many of the complex – and often interrelated – ecological, economic and social challenges facing our state’s coast. Sea Grant brings life to programs for sustaining fisheries, deltaic ecosystems, coastal communities and workforce development. To achieve these goals, Louisiana Sea Grant 14 academic institutions, 19 coastal zone parishes, and numerous partners in state and federal agencies and the private sector.

Louisiana Sea [[erves as a bridge between our state’s academic expertise and the needs of those who manage, conserve, enjoy and make their living on our coast.

Dr. Robert Twilley has been the driving source beyond much of what Sea Grant has done, managing the managers and coming up with the ideas that have made it all work. U.S. Rep. Garret Graves was unsparing in his praise of Twilley and the work Louisiana Sea Grant has headed up during a recent visit to our offices.

He also said he wishes to see that work continue.

That might not happen, however, if a provision in President Donald Trump’s budget – elimination of the Sea Grant program – is allowed to stand. We recognize, as Graves points out, that an initial presidential budget can’t be taken at value. Many programs are seen as threatened that end up fine. But we are also living in a time when science is under extreme suspicion and is a political football. SeaGrant benefits coastal states, and there are a whole lot of states located more toward the middle of the map, so the threat to the program should be taken seriously.

Last week Twilley himself walked the halls of Congress to explain what Sea Grant does. We hope elected officials and their staff members were paying attention.

We appreciate Rep. Graves’ assessment that the work done by Twilley and others, even if not under the Sea Grant name, will still continue. But after due consideration we find that too great a risk. Our coastal communities are already suffering due to the oilfield bust. We cannot allow further suffering by allowing key coastal programs to disappear with the stroke of a pen.

We call on Rep. Graves and the rest of the Louisiana delegation to stand up for Sea Grant now, before it is too late.