U.S.-Canadian Joint Effort Helps To Revitalize Great Lakes Fishery

NSIAD-85-106: Published: Jul 8, 1985. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the administration and effectiveness of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) to determine: (1) the extent to which GLFC activities have improved the Great Lakes fisheries; (2) the timeliness and effectiveness of research studies; (3) the process by which U.S. positions on GLFC issues are formulated; (4) the effectiveness of U.S. commissioners; (5) the extent to which alternate commissioners have been used; and (6) the disposition of unused appropriated funds and the interest earned on them.

GAO found that the efforts of GLFC, specifically its sea lamprey programs, have contributed significantly to increased Great Lakes fish stocks. Since authority to manage the Great Lakes remains with federal, state, and provincial governments, GLFC has assumed the role of sponsor and facilitator rather than manager. However, the research program has been criticized because a large number of research projects have been awarded to members of the GLFC technical advisory board, creating the impression of conflicts of interest. In addition, the program has been criticized because research projects have not been timely completed. GAO also found that: (1) while U.S. commissioners' backgrounds are primarily generalist in nature, Canadian commissioners are more scientifically oriented; (2) GLFC decisions are rendered by group consensus rather than by separate unified positions formulated by each country; (3) U.S. commissioners have frequently been absent from GLFC meetings, primarily due to illness; (4) GLFC has not used its authorization to fill temporary vacancies because most absences have been unexpected in nature; and (5) in fiscal year 1984, GLFC had an operating budget of approximately $7 million, supplemented by about $1.1 million of unused funds, including earned interest, accumulated over the period of 1979 through 1984. The unused fund balance represented about 16 percent of the 1984 annual budget.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: RFP are required for solicitations of $20,000 and over. Progress reports are required from researchers 2 weeks prior to completion, as opposed to within 6 months after completion. Nonfinancial benefits may occur if problems are detected and remedied as a result of the revised reporting requirement.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct the Executive Director of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs to propose to GLFC that it require: (1) a request for proposals (RFP) when contracting for larger research projects, and a particular dollar threshold should be included in the Executive Director's proposal; and (2) progress reports from researchers at established intervals agreed upon in research agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Discussions were be held at the Executive Session of the U.S. and Canadian Commission Interior Meeting in Toronto, Ontario, December 2 and 3, 1986. Unused funds were applied against subsequent years budget requests and GLFC financial regulations were revised to provide for establishment of a working capital fund.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should instruct the Executive Director of the Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs to renew the Department of State's efforts to have GLFC: (1) apply unused funds against next year's budgeted expenses, in accordance with GLFC regulations; and (2) provide for a working capital fund, based on a percentage of its annual budget, to serve as a hedge against unanticipated shortfalls in funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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