President Trump released the Administration’s budget proposal to Congress on May 23, 2017, requesting the elimination of the Marine Mammal Commission (Commission) in fiscal year 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017. I deeply regret having to share this news with you and express my concern about the impact this proposal would have on the American public, marine mammals, and our marine and coastal communities.
In the early 1970s, in response to concern expressed by the American public, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), firmly placing the United States at the forefront of marine mammal and marine ecosystem conservation. As mandated by the MMPA, the Commission has for nearly half a century provided independent, science based oversight of federal activities and programs affecting marine mammals—a function performed by no other agency.
Marine mammals inspire children and adults alike. They draw us to the sea and remind us of the amazing beauty and power of nature. We have proudly served you to ensure that whales, manatees, dolphins, seals, sea otters, and other marine mammals survive for generations of Americans to come. In addition to being part of our natural resource heritage and serving as ocean ambassadors, marine mammals play a critical role in the health and productivity of the world’s oceans and contribute significant revenues and countless jobs to our coastal economies.
The Commission sits at the juncture where science, policy, and economic factors are reconciled to meet the mandates of the MMPA, which balances the demands of human activities with the protection of marine mammals and the environment that sustains them. This role of the Commission helps ensure an effective and efficient regulatory process that abides by Congressional directives, takes into account all stakeholder views, and is based on the best available science. We excel at bringing people together to find solutions to problems before they become crises. We fund cutting edge research that targets novel, low-cost projects that achieve a large impact. We work to ensure healthy populations of marine mammals in our oceans and we protect the subsistence hunting rights of Alaska Natives. We proudly perform these and other duties with a modest annual operating budget of $3.431 million, which comes to just over 1 penny per American per year.
A dedicated team of Commission staff has tirelessly and proudly served our country. In the most recent Federal Employee Survey, the Commission ranked number one in the U.S. government for overall employee engagement and satisfaction, showcasing the level of commitment and motivation of its staff. Despite facing possible elimination of the agency and loss of employment, employees of the Commission remain committed to you and the marine life that has kept us in collective awe for centuries.
The proposed elimination of the Commission comes at a time when decades of marine stewardship are achieving success because of a strong American environmental ethic that balances economic needs with the conservation of our natural resources. We are loyal to our Congressional mandate to responsibly manage and protect marine mammals and their ecosystems, which are vital to our economy, prosperity, and future.
Daryl J. Boness, Ph.D.
Chairman, Marine Mammal Commission