Could the Alaska Sea Grant program go away this year
The bearded seal was released back into the wild at Nome’s west beach. (Photo by Gay Sheffield/University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Sea Grant)Sea Grant knew the Trump administration wanted to eliminate its budget for next fiscal year. But those cuts could come much sooner. The organization said the White House is asking Congress to slash this year’s funding, too. That could mean the end for dozens of Alaska programs, focusing on fisheries and climate change.Listen nowPaula Cullenberg, the director of Alaska Sea Grant, said this latest news was unexpected. Sea Grant supports research at 33 universities nationwide, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks.But, as early as this spring, some of those projects could be on the line.“It’s anxiety-making to have this hanging over your head,” Cullenberg said.Cullenberg said Sea Grant found out about the additional cuts from an agency that acts as its congressional liaison. She said the White House is proposing cutting $30 million from Sea Grant programs for this year. That’s not to be confused with the Trump administration’s ask to eliminate the Sea Grant funding for next year.“I think that’s highly unusual,” Cullenberg said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”Alaska Sea Grant receives matching funds from the university and the state, but Cullenberg says those federal dollars make up the program’s core funding. It’s those federal dollars that pay for projects that measure the economic vitality of the seafood industry and help communities adapt to climate climate.“We’re supporting ten graduate students with research fellowships, three Alaska Sea Grant State Fellows, coastal issues …” Cullenberg said.The list goes on.“There’s not too much in our program that wouldn’t be severely disabled if that came to pass,” Cullenberg said.Congress is deciding at the end of this month what Sea Grant’s budget will be for the rest of 2017. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have shown support for Sea Grant.They’ve asked for “adequate funding” for next fiscal year. Cullenberg said she’s remaining hopeful for this year, too.