Species Protection:

National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement Efforts

RCED-93-127BR: Published: Jun 21, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) enforcement activities, focusing on the: (1) level of its enforcement actions; and (2) penalties NMFS assessed to enforce four major fisheries and marine species protection laws in the southeastern United States.

GAO found that: (1) between 1988 and 1992, 64 percent of NMFS cases involved Magnuson Act violations, 22 percent involved turtle excluder device (TED) regulations violations, 10 percent involved Lacey and Marine Mammal Protection Act violations, and 3 percent involved other various Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations; (2) TED violations increased significantly between fiscal year (FY) 1988 and FY 1990, but decreased in FY 1992 as a result of increased NMFS enforcement activities and TED compliance; (3) of the total number of cases opened, 90 percent involved civil violations and 10 percent involved criminal violations; (4) civil penalties included fines, written warnings, and property forfeitures; (5) while the maximum civil fines authorized ranged from $100,000 for Magnuson Act violations to $10,000 for Lacey Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act violations, the average fine NMFS assessed was $2,560; (6) NMFS opened 317 criminal cases involving TED violations, Lacey Act violations, and non-TED ESA violations; and (7) penalties assessed for criminal violations resulted in probation, fines, jail sentences, and community service.

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