Legislators seek to protect Sea Grant


Heard recent chatter of an uptick in local shark activity? Curious why your fishing lines haven’t been twitching recently? When something peculiar happens in the water around us, our questions are usually answered by marine science experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

However, these world-class institutions would not be able to answer our questions without the dollars they receive from the federal government. Now, efforts by the Trump administration to cut funding for scientific research have put marine biologists’ work in jeopardy. Specifically, a recent attempt to end national Sea Grant programming prompted state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, to take action. 

Last week at the State House, Fernandes and Livingstone hosted a presentation by both WHOI and MIT scholars, showcasing recent research findings and valued partnerships within the commonwealth. State legislators noshed on oysters from Wellfleet Oyster Co. to highlight Sea Grant’s impact on local shellfishing industry.

“The Sea Grant program is administered right here in our district by the Woods Hole Oceanographic [Institution], and helps communities across Cape Cod preserve and protect our ocean,” said Fernandes in a press release. Fernandes is a Democrat from Falmouth representing the Cape and Islands. A vocal environmentalist, Fernandes has focused much of his time in office on protecting the natural health of the Cape and Islands. 

Sea Grant is a national program directed by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. The mission of the Sea Grant program is “to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment,” according to its website

Massachusetts is one of only two states to have both a college-based program and an institutional program.

“We appreciated the opportunity to highlight Massachusetts Sea Grant programs’ role in sustaining and growing the Blue Economy in the commonwealth,” said Dr. Matt Charette, director of Woods Hole Sea Grant, in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the state in the future on job creation, water quality, coastal resiliency, and sustainable fisheries, as well as providing innovative solutions to the many challenges our coastal communities will face with changing climate.”