Functions, Activities, and Utility of the Three Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions

CED-79-46: Published: Feb 26, 1979. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1979.

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Eight Regional Fishery Management Councils were established in 1976 to create a system of fisheries management for the Fishery Conservation Zone in cooperation with the Department of Commerce and the states. In order to serve the states by advocating state interests and coordinating interstate research and territorial sea fisheries management efforts, the following Marine Fisheries Commissions were established: the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and the Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission. The three commissions receive financial support from their member states, as well as funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. GAO made a review of the functions, activities, and utility of the three commissions.

There is a need for the continuing role of the Commissions in fishery management planning, particularly in areas where fish migrate between state jurisdictions. The Pacific Marine Fisheries Commission is the most active in coordinating state research projects. State officials, for the most part, support a continuing role for the commissions on matters not subject to the councils' jurisdiction. While commission activities, such as coordinating research, could be performed by the councils, other areas, such as planning and managing territorial sea species, are not subject to council jurisdiction. The commissions can provide a valuable service in coordinating interstate fisheries management for species predominately in the territorial area. The commissions' final role, however, is unclear at this time. GAO believes that the current reassessments by the commissions should be very useful in helping to determine and establish their ultimate role and functions.

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