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Federal fisheries administrative merger could cost California

April 09, 2013|By Bettina Boxall
  • Fishing boats in Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Fishing boats in Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, Calif. (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles…)

Federal budget cutters are merging the two West Coast administrative regions of the National Marine Fisheries Service, a move that could leave California at a disadvantage.

The merger will create one administrative region for the West Coast, saving an estimated $3 million in management costs. Currently the agency has two West Coast regions: The Southwest, headquartered in Long Beach, oversees California. The Northwest, based in Washington state, covers Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The merger, included in recent congressional budget language, was initially proposed by the Obama administration as one of several consolidations within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Many of the fisheries issues addressed by these two regions (e.g., Pacific salmon) overlap and, therefore, this merger will improve coordination in areas where there is currently joint decision-making,” President Obama's budget proposal stated.

Kevin Chu, deputy southwest regional administrator, said the staff cuts would be achieved through attrition and retirement, mainly at the senior level. The merger will take place over the next 18 months.

Since NOAA owns buildings in Seattle, it is likely the single regional administration will be based there, although Chu said no final decision had been made. That could make it harder for California fishing interests to gain access to management, although Chu said the Long Beach office and others in the state would remain open.

The agency oversees marine resources, including commercial and recreational fishing.

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