By Alexandra Witze
In the heavily fished waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the red snapper has made a notable comeback. Strict US government regulations have helped to rebuild its stocks after overfishing caused a population crash in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the fish faces a new challenge: President Donald Trump, a Republican who wants to cut roughly US$50 billion from the government’s civilian agencies in 2018.
Trump’s plan would eliminate the Mississippi-based Sea Grant programme that is poised to oversee a $12-million study of red-snapper stocks. Its findings are meant to guide future management decisions, and to protect a fishery that hauls in billions of dollars per year for the Republican-dominated gulf states. Now the study’s fate is uncertain — along with those of many other government science programmes, including some that largely benefit the voters who propelled Trump into office.
In 2014, about $35 billion — or nearly one-third of all federal research dollars — flowed to states that voted Republican in the most recent presidential election, a Nature analysis found (see ‘Red state, blue state’). Economists have documented how this type of government investment shores up local economies, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC. “Many smaller communities have a huge amount to lose,” he says.
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