Fisheries:

Commerce Needs to Improve Fisheries Management in the North Pacific

RCED-91-96: Published: Mar 28, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) federal management of the groundfish fishery in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska; (2) systems for calculating domestic processing capability; and (3) systems for releasing surplus allocations to joint-venture fishermen.

GAO found that: (1) the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's recommended 2-million metric ton cap for groundfish in the Bering Sea was conservative, based on the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) 1984 estimate; (2) the Council maintained the conservative cap to Americanize the fishery, protect markets for groundfish, and sustain the ecological balance; (3) domestic processors provided NMFS with preseason estimates which were 43 percent higher than actual use, and NMFS believed that estimates were inflated primarily to limit or eliminate allocations to joint-venture and foreign fishermen; (4) the system for allocating groundfish often gave domestic processors larger initial allocations than they needed and reduced the allocations to joint-venture and foreign fishermen; and (5) joint-venture and foreign fishing in the North Pacific fishery was eliminated when all allocations of groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea went to domestic processors in 1990 and 1991.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Domestic needs, according to Commerce, are now significantly higher than the groundfish catch limit, thus reallocation would take place.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the NMFS Alaska regional office to improve the NFMS system and methods for estimating domestic processors' needs by requiring that the processors report changes in processing needs during the fishing season to NMFS as they occur so that any reallocation necessary can be made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce stated that, at this time, other reporting requirements are being considered in order to obtain a better prediction capability of estimating a fishing effort. Directing a significant portion of its enforcement capability to this effort might have reduced the exaggerated domestic processing needs, but it would have only been accomplished at the cost of foregoing enforcement efforts.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the NMFS Alaska regional office to improve the NMFS system and methods for estimating domestic processors' needs by establishing a system for determining and enforcing penalties against processors who knowingly submit false estimates, as authorized in the Magnuson Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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