NOAA Rule Aims To Silence Sea Grant Advocacy

July 13, 2011

Since Congress created it in 1966, the federal-state Sea Grant College program has been advocating the eating of seafood caught by U.S. fishermen. It uses the research resources at state universities to support seafood and other maritime industries (with some federal funding, of course, overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

Now the Obama administration is trying to silence advocacy of marine conservation by Sea Grant grantees, and getting entangled in protests from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The case started when University of Alaska Prof. Rick Steiner was stripped of a NOAA grant because he advocated marine conservation in the face of the oil industry's desire to drill in Bristol Bay. PEER petitioned NOAA to reverse its stated policy prohibiting advocacy by grantees. That policy, PEER says, is inconsistent with NOAA's official scientific integrity policy and the Obama administration's much-vaunted advocacy of more openness in federal government.