Congressman Alan Lowenthal on Thursday secured a commitment from the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to keep open a regional office of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) located in Long Beach.
The Obama Administration's fiscal year 2014 budget submitted last Wednesday proposed a consolidation of certain operations of the two West Coast Regional Fisheries Offices -- the SW Office in Long Beach and the NW Office in Seattle -- into one West Coast Region.
The Congressman elicited the "no closure' guarantee during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing in which NOAA Acting Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan was offering testimony on the NOAA budget for 2014.
"My constituents are worried that a consolidation of offices would reduce their access to Fisheries management and services," said Lowenthal, who sits on the Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. "I would like to know: can you assure me that the Long Beach office will stay open? And, that California, with over 1,000 miles of coastline, will continue to have access to the essential Fisheries resources this Long Beach office provides."
Sullivan said that despite the planned consolidation of some of the agency's West Coast operations, "I can assure you that the Long Beach office will remain open and that we will work closely with you and your constituents as we work through the detailed implications of this plan."
Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management Eric Schwaab, also testifying at the hearing, explained that the consolidation plan for the NMFS West Coast operations was in the early stages.
"It is a consolidation plan that will yield efficiencies primarily through the top levels of management," Guertin said. "We expect to retain strong staff level support and presence across the region, including at the Long Beach office."
Following the hearing, Lowenthal said he remains committed to keeping the Long Beach office open and would continue to work with NOAA and the NMFS to assure that essential services remain available to Californians.
The NMFS is a federal agency that is part of NOAA and a division of the Department of Commerce. It is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat from three miles offshore out to 200 miles off the California coast.
Regional NMFS offices also serve as science centers to assess and predict the status of regional fish stocks, ensure compliance with fisheries regulations, and work to end wasteful fishing practices.