Resource Protection:

Mississippi Valley Canada Geese: Flyway Management Obstacles

RCED-86-31: Published: Feb 5, 1986. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 1986.

Additional Materials:


James Duffus, III
(202) 512-7756


Office of Public Affairs
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In response to congressional requests, GAO reviewed the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) hunting regulations and cooperative management program for the Mississippi Valley Population of Canada geese (MVP), specifically the: (1) level of cooperation between the states in the Mississippi Flyway Council and FWS; (2) progress made in reaching the program's goal to increase MVP size; and (3) concern that hunters in the Council's southern states were not receiving an equitable share of the geese relative to the northern states.

FWS promulgates regulations each year limiting the number of waterfowl hunters can shoot and works with the Council to establish hunting regulations. The MVP improvement program: (1) restricts the harvesting of Canada geese to allow the flock to grow by 15 percent each year; (2) closed to hunting the area south of the 36th parallel; (3) sets harvest objectives for specific areas within states; and (4) relies on each state to apply the necessary harvest control methods, such as monitoring and season closure, to meet the agreed-upon limits. GAO found that: (1) since 1979, overall MVP harvest objectives have been exceeded by 295,000 geese, resulting in an MVP decline of 118,000; (2) overharvests persisted despite FWS and Council steps to shorten the hunting season and identify harvest objectives for specific areas; (3) FWS has been reluctant to take stronger regulatory action to ensure that the states adhere to their objectives because of the program's cooperative nature; (4) although the states have cooperated in feeding and refuge restrictions in order to increase southern migration, they have been less unified over harvest control and have not accepted the increasingly restrictive regulations limiting state harvests; and (5) state officials seem willing to reexamine harvest objectives if the planned annual goose population growth rate could be reduced below 15 percent, giving them more time to reach the program's goals and allowing them to increase annual harvest objectives.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO recommended tightening up on harvest controls if goose kill continued to exceed the harvest objective. FWS and the states took the other path by bringing recent high-kill levels in line with the harvest objective by increasing the harvest objective target, not by imposing severe hunting restrictions.

    Recommendation: If the states' harvest control plans for the 1985 to 1986 MVP Canada goose hunting season prove ineffective, the Director, FWS, should include, starting in the 1986 to 1987 hunting regulations, such restrictions as: (1) specifying each state's MVP harvest objective; (2) expanding special hunting (quota and tag) zones to monitor MVP harvest rates; and (3) requiring states to close hunting seasons early if their MVP harvest objective is approached.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FWS and the MVP Canada Goose Council agreed in mid-1986 to hold the population targets stable at 500,000 for several years, and to adjust the hunting kill levels, based on an expert's model, that includes breeding success, natural mortality, and mid-winter counts. With a zero population growth goal, more geese can be killed by hunters without causing program failure.

    Recommendation: Because of the importance of state and federal cooperation to achieve waterfowl management goals, the Director, FWS, should work with the Mississippi Flyway Council to reach agreement on a revised growth rate for achieving overall population and southern distribution goals of the MVP Canada goose program.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: United States Fish and Wildlife Service


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