Budget conference: House wants bigger bite for shark research

$7 million would fully match the request made by the shark-tracking non-profit.

After state budget negotiators had agreed to spend $2.5 million for a new facility and marine vessel for shark researchers at OCEARCH, the House wants lawmakers to take a larger, $7 million bite at the apple.

At the start of negotiations on Monday, only the Senate had requested spending for the new multi-purpose facility and quick-response vessel. But after matching the Senate suggestion on Wednesday, negotiators at the top level of discussions circled back Saturday to say, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

House negotiators, led by Panama City Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull, are now requesting the $2.5 million expenditure be upped to $7 million. That would fully match the request made by the shark-tracking non-profit.

In a spending request carried by Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, OCEARCH sought $4.5 million for planning, construction and more for the new facility located at Mayport in Jacksonville, along the St. Johns River. The remaining $2.5 million would cover the new research vessel and a maintenance fund for data gathering, shark and marine mammal research and marine mammal rescue.

Additionally, the vessel would use dock facilities leased to Jacksonville University through $6 million matching funds from Jacksonville.

“The facility will make Florida the global headquarters and leader in research and public policy by providing access to an unprecedented dataset to help manage the ocean and bring its recreational and commercial benefits back to abundance,” according to the spending request.

OCEARCH, through its partnership with Jacksonville University, facilitates research for Florida’s private colleges and universities. Mote Marine Lab, SeaWorld Orlando, Disney Orlando, Cape Canaveral Scientific and Ocean First Institute have also done research through OCEARCH at JU.

“These Florida institutions and the State of Florida will benefit greatly from this facility,” according to the spending request.

OCEARCH indicated they would likely request $5 million in a future fiscal year.

Jacksonville University wants the new complex to include buildings for public education and displays, public meetings, OCEARCH ship operations and dockage for its vessels. The facility will house laboratory, data management and academic resource management to assist collaborative scientists and researchers in their efforts.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kelli Stargel is leading negotiations for the Senate, which is expected to return an offer in the coming days. Lawmakers have until Tuesday to finalize the budget in order to pass it by the scheduled end of Session.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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