Stop insuring fishery pirates
Sep27

Stop insuring fishery pirates

By Dana Miller, postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit in Vancouver, Canada. “Pirate” evokes images of legendary figures from the days of the great tall-masted sailing galleons, like Captain Henry Morgan, the famous 17th century “pirate of the Caribbean.” But piracy is still with us today, and modern pirates do not only steal from passing ships. They take from the common treasury of the ocean: the shared fisheries that states, fishers, and scientists spend many diplomatic hours working to apportion fairly and sustainably. I and my colleagues revealed that modern-day pirates in the form of illegal fishers are able to purchase insurance coverage for their blacklisted vessels. Our research appears this month in the September 2016 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Captain Morgan reportedly used one of the earliest systems of workers compensation insurance. If a pirate lost a limb during a raid, they were financially compensated for the loss. Now, nearly 400 years later, pirates can obtain insurance services from the same institutions that insure legal vessels. We identified the insurers of 67 vessels known for their involvement in illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. Some of these vessels are well known and have been written about in high profile news articles. Without insurance, fishing companies may face enormous financial losses should an accident occur. Not only is insurance accessible to illegal fishers, it is also valued by these criminals enough to be purchased even for smaller vessels, when it isn’t legally required. If insurers change their policies to make it harder for illegal fishers to purchase insurance, we believe fewer of these fishers will find it profitable to participate in illegal fishing. At a minimum, insurers should consult officially verified illegal vessel lists to make certain listed vessels are not granted insurance. By transforming their current role from facilitating illegal fishing to deterring it, insurers can enable the use of marine insurance as an economic tool in the global fight against illegal fishing. Further reading: Miller, Dana et al (2016) Cutting a lifeline to maritime crime: marine insurance and IUU fishing. Front Ecol Environ 14(7):357–362, doi:1002/fee.1293 Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) combined vessel list “A renegade trawler, hunted for 10,000 miles by vigilantes.” NYTimes feature story about the Thunder by Ian Urbina, 28 July 2015...

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‘Putting a face’ on science funding, Lear reflects on congressional visits experience
Jun06

‘Putting a face’ on science funding, Lear reflects on congressional visits experience

A guest commentary by Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award recipient As a 2016 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) recipient, I traveled to D.C. in late April for three days to receive hands-on exposure to the interface between science and policy. This was a departure from my “day-job” as a graduate student at the University of Georgia studying the conservation of an endangered pollinating bat species in Mexico. The other five GSPA recipients and I spent the first evening of this jam-packed two-day experience representing ESA at the Coalition for National Science Funding reception on Capitol Hill, where scientists representing their professional society or university showcase their research that is supported by federal funding. Usually “higher-up” members of ESA get to do this, but because the CNSF reception happened to fall on the dates of the GSPA trip, we had the unique opportunity to participate. We staffed a table for ESA and talked with visitors, many of whom were Congressional members or staff, about our research and ESA’s work. As a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for my PhD research, I can personally attest to the importance of federal funding of scientific research. Dr. France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), stopped at the ESA exhibit. On our first full day, we got a crash-course in how federal science policy works, with guest speakers from the National Science Foundation, the Ecological Society of America, and others involved in the science policy arena. Next, we split into our geographically-paired teams to practice for the next day’s Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visit day meetings, where we would be thrown into the ring (aka Senate and House offices) to discuss the importance of continued federal funding for NSF. After some discussion among Team GA-MS (four graduate students from Georgia and Mississippi and a Team Leader), about how to approach our Hill meetings, we were as prepared as we could be for the real thing. The following morning we gathered on the Hill, dressed in our fancy business attire, and proceeded to meet with a total of seven House and Senate and offices. Many of our meetings were with the staff of the Members, but our group was lucky enough to get to meet with some of the Members themselves: Representative Jody Hice from Georgia and Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi. During our meetings we asked for $8 billion for NSF in the FY2017 budget. This may seem like a crazy amount of money, but when you consider that federally-funded basic science research has led to the creation of...

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ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing
Jun01

ESA Policy News June 1: House energy bill restricts climate research, FY 2017 Interior bill cuts conservation funding, science committee convenes Zika hearing

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  ENERGY: HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT RESTRICTS CLIMATE, ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH On May 25, the House passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill passed by a vote of 241-178. Eight Democrats joined all but six Republicans in supporting the measure. S. 2012 passed the Senate April 20, 2016 by a strong bipartisan vote of 85-12. The House used “an amendment in the nature of a substitute” to replace the Senate-passed text with the language of a more partisan House energy bill, H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. The White House released a statement threatening to veto H.R. 8 in Nov. 2015, stating it would undercut efforts to increase the nation’s energy efficiency. The House language includes a number of restrictions on scientific research, particularly related to the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Biological and Environment Research (BER) program. The House legislation would authorize funding for BER 9.7 percent ($59 million) below the FY 2016 appropriated level. The legislation would also prevent BER from carrying out climate science research that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies as “overlapping or duplicative.” Further, the legislation would also require BER to “prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics science” over “climate and environmental research.”   ESA submitted a letter to the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee requesting that the cuts and restrictions to scientific research included in the House bill not be included in legislation negotiated between the two chambers. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 8. APPROPRIATIONS: FY 2017 INTERIOR BILL CUTS FUNDING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENTITIES On May 24, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. As in recent years, the bill includes several provisions that would prohibit funding for Obama administration environmental regulatory initiatives. The bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for federal agency wildland fire suppression costs. The committee report outlining funding for wildfire specific accounts between the Department of Interior and US Forest Service has yet to be released. Of the $5.3 billion appropriated for the US Forest Service, $2.9 billion is targeted towards wildland fire suppression and prevention activities. EPA would receive $7.98 billion, $164 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level. Policy riders to prohibit the agency from implementing new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, methane, mining and navigable...

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ESA Policy News May 4: Senate committee moves NSF, DOE funding bills, ESA grad students visit Capitol Hill
May04

ESA Policy News May 4: Senate committee moves NSF, DOE funding bills, ESA grad students visit Capitol Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE BILL CLEARS SUBCOMMITTEE On April 19, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. The bill includes $56.3 billion, $563 above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget request. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.5 billion in FY 2017, a $46.3 million increase over FY 2017. The added funding is directed solely towards NSF major research and facilities construction, specifically the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. NSF research and related activities remains flat at the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.7 billion, a $33.5 million increase. National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion, a $21 million increase. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: $5.6 billion, level. Click here for additional information on the Senate CJS bill.   APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE REPORT ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS On April 20, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved their respective energy and water spending bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins Oct 1, 2016. The House bill would provide $37.4 billion in funding, a $259 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016: US Army Corps of Engineers: $6.1 billion, a $100 million increase. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase. Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $306 million, a $15 million increase. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $1.8 billion, a $248 million cut. DOE Environmental Management: $6.2 billion, a $66 million cut. DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $645 million, a $13 million increase. Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $131 million cut. In contrast, the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill passed committee with bipartisan support. Its Energy and Water bill would provide $37.5 billion in FY 2017, slightly larger than the House measure. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels: The US Army Corps of Engineers: $6 billion, an $11 million increase. The DOE Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $2 billion, level. DOE Environmental Management: $6.4 billion, a $133 million increase. DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $632...

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ESA Policy News March 30: House committees review FY 2017 NSF, NOAA, Forest Service budget requests, ESA submits funding testimony to Capitol Hill
Mar30

ESA Policy News March 30: House committees review FY 2017 NSF, NOAA, Forest Service budget requests, ESA submits funding testimony to Capitol Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NSF FY 2017 BUDGET On March 22, a House Science, Space and Technology Research Subcommittee hearing examined the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) FY 2017 budget. During the committee hearing, both Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) expressed general support for the work of the National Science Foundation. In her remarks, NSF Director France Córdova noted that since 2010, research funding for the agency in constant dollars has declined, which affects the number of NSF grants awarded. “The result is that the fraction of proposals that we can fund has decreased significantly. The funding rate was 30 percent in FY 2000 and is just over 20 percent now,” said Córdova. “Of great concern to us is that the situation is more challenging for people who haven’t previously received an NSF award, including young investigators. For them, the funding rate has gone from 21 percent in FY 2000 to 16 percent today.” Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) voiced skepticism about new mandatory spending outlined in the agency’s budget request, but he remained hopeful that colleagues could support another bipartisan increase for NSF. He expressed support for continuing to give NSF discretion in how it prioritizes directorate funding, citing similar views recently iterated by House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX). Click here to view the Research and Technology Subcommittee NSF hearing. Click here to view the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. HOUSE: NOAA WEATHER FORECASTING, CLIMATE RESEARCH EXAMINED IN FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST“] On March 16, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment convened for a hearing examining the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s FY 2017 budget request. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) accused the budget request of prioritizing climate research over weather forecasting. “Instead of hyping a climate change agenda, NOAA should focus its efforts on producing sound science and improving methods of data collection.  Unfortunately, climate alarmism often takes priority at NOAA,” said Smith. “This was demonstrated by the agency’s decision to prematurely publish the 2015 study that attempted to make the two-decade halt in global warming disappear.” Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) used her opening statement to emphasize the importance of NOAA’s climate change research and how monitoring rising temperatures and changes in ocean chemistry and ecosystems helps us better manage our fisheries, coasts, and improves the resiliency of our nation’s coastal communities. She also took the opportunity to address Chairman Smith’s investigation into NOAA’s climate science research. “Before I yield back...

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ESA Policy News March 17: US, Canada announce climate pledge, IPBES seeks experts, Obama court pick supports EPA authority
Mar17

ESA Policy News March 17: US, Canada announce climate pledge, IPBES seeks experts, Obama court pick supports EPA authority

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: US, CANADA ANNOUNCE CLIMATE CHANGE PLEDGE On March 10, the President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their two countries have agreed to a series of efforts to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. They also reinforced their commitment to joining and implementing the Paris climate change agreement. Both nations plan to reduce methane emissions 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 and will work to reduce their hydrofluorocarbon emissions. The statement called for increasing renewable energy investments and “conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision making.” The two nations also called for all oil and gas development in the Arctic to align with science-based standards. Click here to view the full statement. NSF: BATTELLE CHOSEN TO MANAGE NEON NSF selected Battelle to complete the construction, commissioning and initial operations for the $432 million project National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project. Battelle is a nonprofit organization with the mission of translating scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits. They currently manage seven national laboratories and have a long history of managing large and complex technical projects. For the next 90 days, Battelle will be in a transition period to develop an organizational/management structure to prepare for the next steps to complete construction of the network in 20 ecologically distinct zones across the United States, from Alaska to Puerto Rico. IPBES: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY, ECOSYSTEMS ASSESSMENT The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is seeking nominations of experts and fellows for its global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Nominated experts should “have expertise in one or more disciplines within natural science, social science or humanities, represent or have expertise in indigenous and local knowledge systems, or be policy experts and practitioners.” Nominations are due May 5, 2016. IPBES began a three-year study into humanity’s impact on ecosystems and biodiversity on March 1, 2016. The study, due in 2019, will examine a wide array of lifeforms, habitats, and measure progress towards meeting commitments under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. It released its first summary on pollinators in late February 2016. Click here for additional details on how to submit a nomination. Click here to read the unedited advanced summary for policymakers for the pollinator report. SUPREME COURT: OBAMA NOMINEE SUPPORTIVE OF EPA RULES On March 16, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Justice of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to...

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ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring
Dec16

ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: WORLD LEADERS REACH FIRST EVER CLIMATE ACCORD On Dec. 12, over 190 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to the first-ever international climate change agreement in Paris. The 31-page agreement sets a goal of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and  pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Assessments on the progress of countries’ pledges will be conducted every five years, beginning in 2018. All countries will update and revise existing climate targets every five years, starting in 2020 with a goal of each target reflecting progress over the prior one. As part of the agreement, developed countries will pledge to raise $100 billion to aid developing nations in tackling climate change. For the first time, the agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source, allowing the general public to understand better the level of pollution generated by countries around the world. The agreement is considered a win for President Obama, who had pledged that the United States would lead by example in mitigating the effects of climate change. Click here for a summary of the agreement. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS REACHES FUNDING AGREEMENT FOR REMAINDER OF FY 2016 On the evening of Dec. 15, congressional leaders released a bipartisan $1.149 trillion omnibus spending deal that funds the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill comes after enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which made it possible for moderate increases in overall discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years. To prevent a shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 22. The House is expected to take up the measure on Dec. 18. with the Senate expected to vote on the bill shortly after. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and the president has indicated he will sign the measure. Most of the major harmful environmental riders from House appropriations bills were not included from the final bill. For NSF, the bill includes $7.46 billion, a $119 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill does not include restrictions on the NSF directorates that fund the geosciences or social and behavioral sciences. The bill requires federal agency Inspector Generals to conduct random audits of grant funding to combat waste and fraud and establishes an early warning system on cost overruns and requires agencies to notify congressional committees when costs grow...

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GSPA recipients bridge the gap between science and policy
Dec08

GSPA recipients bridge the gap between science and policy

In some respects, this year has been a politically tumultuous one for scientists working in federal policy. The US House Science, Space and Technology Committee has pushed legislation that would radically alter how the National Science Foundation prioritizes its budget and made repeated requests for information related to how certain federal agencies utilize science in their decision-making processes. While it is true that for some policymakers, their critique of scientific findings or priorities are based in fundamental differences of ideology, there are many others who are simply unaware of the degree of rigor involved in the scientific peer review process for science publications or the high level of transparency and competitiveness that constitutes the National Science Foundation’s merit review process for grant proposals. Consequently, it is critically important to maintain an open dialogue of communication between those who make science policy and those who practice the science. This is necessary to advance understanding of basic scientific research and seek consensus on how this research can be used to improve and improve our way of life. The Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) is one such tool the Ecological Society of America (ESA) uses to engage scientists in policy and help lawmakers understand the ecological research being conducted in their congressional districts and how it helps the communities they represent. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 GSPA recipient Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas-Austin) reflects on her experience. For Resetarits, meeting with congressional offices highlighted the “isolated scientific community” she operates in, given that certain ecological terms and species she referred weren’t immediately familiar to some of the legislative staff during their discussion. She hopes that more Members of Congress will hire scientists as policy aides, but noted it’s beneficial to continue a dialogue with not just offices that are less familiar with science, but also those that may be critical of certain scientific findings or processes. “I think we’re strengthened when we really are able to talk to people who disagree with us, take their doubts and incorporate it into our research or how we explain ourselves,” said Resetarits. “I think it strengthens how we do science when we talk to people who maybe disagree with us.” Resetarits encourages scientists looking to get involved with policy to volunteer with a local agency whose work they found valuable— noting that public speaking skill is vital for communicating scientific research to wide audiences. “Just being able to public[ly] speak to a general audience about what you do is really important and if you can do that, that will really give you a leg up on trying...

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