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Highlights

To assist in deliberations on individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs, GAO determined (1) the extent of consolidation of quota holdings in three IFQ programs (Alaskan halibut and sablefish, wreckfish, and surfclam/ocean quahog); (2) the extent of foreign holdings of quota in these programs; and (3) the economic effect of the IFQ program on Alaskan halibut and sablefish processors.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should, to ensure that quota holders meet eligibility requirements, such as being a U.S. citizen or entity, direct the Director of NMFS to collect and analyze information on quota holders, including who actually holds and controls the use of the quota and for whom financial institutions hold quota.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) was reauthorized in January 2007. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reports that it has not yet completed its analyses of the reauthorized act due to the complexities of the many different provisions and the need to obtain legal review. Since NMFS has not yet determined whether the reauthorized act enables NMFS to collect and analyze the data needed to determine who actually controls the use of quota shares, this recommendation is closed as not implemented.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should, to help prevent an individual or entity from acquiring an excessive share of the quota in future IFQ programs, require regional fishery management councils to define what constitutes an excessive share for the fishery.
Closed - Implemented
GAO found that while the Alaskan halibut and sablefish individual fishing quota (IFQ) program set specific and measurable limits on the amount of quota an individual or entity could hold, the surfclam/ocean quahog and wreckfish IFQ programs did not, relying instead on federal antitrust laws to determine whether any quota holdings are excessive. Without fishery-specific limits on quota holdings, it is difficult to determine whether any quota holdings in a particular fishery would be viewed as excessive, as prohibited by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson-Stevens Act). To help prevent an individual or entity from acquiring an excessive share of the quota in future IFQ programs, in December 2002, GAO recommended that the Secretary of Commerce require regional fishery management councils to define what constitutes an excessive share for the fishery. The Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized and amended in January 2007. The act now requires that, in developing a limited access privilege program (e.g., an IFQ program), a council or the Secretary must establish a maximum share, expressed as a percentage of the total limited access privileges, which a limited access privilege holder is permitted to hold. GAO believes that this requirement will help prevent an individual or entity from acquiring an excessive share of the quota in future IFQ programs.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should, to assist the regional fishery management councils in defining excessive share for a particular fishery, direct the Director of NMFS to provide guidance to the councils on the factors to consider when determining what constitutes an excessive share in future IFQ programs.
Closed - Implemented
The Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized in January 2007. The reauthorized act requires the regional fisheries management councils, in developing a limited access privilege program such as an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program, to determine what constitutes an excessive share of limited access privileges in the fishery. As a result of this congressional requirement, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) plans to provide guidance to the councils on the factors to consider when determining what constitutes an excessive share. As a result of the congressional action and the commitment on the part of NMFS, the intent of our recommendation has been substantially addressed.

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