Sport Fish Restoration Account

T-RCED-88-42: Published: May 12, 1988. Publicly Released: May 12, 1988.

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GAO discussed the Sport Fish Restoration Account of the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) administers to provide funding for state sport fish restoration and development programs, focusing on how: (1) account revenues have grown; (2) the Department of the Treasury estimated and accounted for these revenues; and (3) six states have spent their available funding. GAO found that: (1) the sport fish program receives funds from excise taxes on sport fishing equipment and gasoline used in motorboats and import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats, and yachts; (2) about $45 million from motorboat fuel revenues was allocated to the account annually; (3) although Treasury estimated revenue increases from $97 million in 1986 to $114 million in 1989, revenues actually increased to $122 million in 1986 and a projected $165 million in 1989; (4) errors in Treasury estimates in 1985 and 1986 affected the apportionment estimates to the states and their ability to plan and budget for spending; (5) FWS did not meet its apportionment notification goal due to Treasury delays in providing year-end data and FWS delays in obtaining a new formula for calculating apportionments to coastal states; (6) the six states have used their grants primarily for funding research activities, such as long-term monitoring of fish populations, and development activities, such as stocking and improving lakes and streams; (7) although states must spend at least 10 percent of their funds for boating accesses, some states, such as Delaware, would become saturated with boating access sites, and must spend their funds on maintaining existing sites; and (8) although FWS prepared annual reports up to 1984 that summarized state obligations, reversions, and unobligated balances, it did not submit annual reports for subsequent years due to difficulties in establishing a new centralized data management system. GAO believes that resumption of the annual reports would help keep Congress informed of changes and trends in states' spending.

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