Congressional Guidance and Better Federal Coordination Would Improve Marine Mammal Management

CED-81-52: Published: May 11, 1981. Publicly Released: May 11, 1981.

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GAO was requested to review the activities and effectiveness of the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) and the Departments of Commerce and the Interior in fulfilling the Marine Mammal Protection Act's (MMPA) requirements.

Under the MMPA, many Federal and State actions have been initiated to help ensure the protection and, in some cases, recovery of marine mammals. However, progress has been slow and improvements are needed to satisfactorily fulfill the MMPA objectives and goals. The review of selected species disclosed a need for amendments to the MMPA to facilitate marine mammal management and for improvements in the administration of the marine mammal program by the regulatory agencies. Hunting by Natives is not controlled unless the species is depleted; however, such hunting is for subsistence and handicraft purposes only and is not done in a wasteful manner. Because fishery resources and marine mammals interact, conflicts occur in the administration of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FMCA) and the MMPA. GAO found that fishery and marine mammal managers differ in their interpretations of the two Acts' basic goals. Because jurisdiction to administer the MMPA is divided, the Interior and Commerce are performing similar, if not duplicative, functions. GAO found that the regulatory agencies have not provided priority attention to fulfilling the provisions of the MMPA. It is apparent that there are significant differences of opinion as to the type of action that needs to be taken.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should amend both the FCMA and the MMPA to clarify the extent to which the interests of each law must be considered in fulfilling the objectives of the other.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should, in connection with the need to establish an appropriate marine mammal enforcement program, amend the MMPA to clarify such terms as subsistence, native handicraft, and wasteful, which are used with limiting or establishing quotas on the harvesting of marine animals by Natives.

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should amend the MMPA to allow the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior, according to the species being managed, to exercise managerial controls over the Native subsistence harvesting of the species, such as the walrus, when it appears such steps will help prevent the species' depletion or assist in protecting the marine environment.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should insure that the proposed reorganization for marine mammal management provide a sufficiently high level of specific management emphasis to marine mammals and, to the extent possible, eliminate divided responsibilities between the various Fish and Wildlife Service offices.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give priority attention, with appropriate direction and level of commitment and funding, to resolving those issues and carrying out those functions, such as establishing recovery teams and developing recovery plans, which facilitate timely development of suitable management programs to encourage and accomplish species recovery.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should establish interagency working arrangements to expedite the waiver review process when States request a waiver and return of management. In addition, the two agencies should coordinate their enforcement programs and other related activities to reduce costs and minimize delays that may occur as a result of the split Federal jurisdiction inherent in the Federal Government's management of marine mammals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should establish interagency working arrangements to expedite the waiver review process when States request a waiver and return of management. In addition, the two agencies should coordinate their enforcement programs and other related activities to reduce costs and minimize delays that may occur as a result of the split Federal jurisdiction inherent in the Federal Government's management of marine mammals.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service to work more closely with MMC, the State, and others to resolve the biological and social problems relating to issues, such as optimum sustainable population, the multiple use of coastal resources, and the development of translocation criteria to establish new or separate locations for the sea otter.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should, in cooperation with State authorities requesting a waiver of the moratorium and a return of management to the States, establish as a high priority, procedures to ensure that the process required to make such determinations is accomplished in an expeditious and responsive manner. Problems that arise with the process should be promptly discussed with appropriate State officials, MMC, and other interested parties to ensure that the time and effort and related costs are kept to a minimum and, more importantly, to help establish an effective marine mammal protection program as the MMPA envisioned.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should, in cooperation with State authorities requesting a waiver of the moratorium and a return of management to the States, establish as a high priority, procedures to ensure that the process required to make such determinations is accomplished in an expeditious and responsive manner. Problems that arise with the process should be promptly discussed with appropriate State officials, MMC, and other interested parties to ensure that the time and effort and related costs are kept to a minimum and, more importantly, to help establish an effective marine mammal protection program as the MMPA envisioned.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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