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Highlights

To address overfishing, the National Marine Fisheries Service started using individual fishing quotas (IFQ) as a fishery conservation and management tool in 1990. Under an IFQ program, a regional fishery management council sets a maximum, or total allowable catch, and allocates the privilege to harvest a certain portion of the catch in the form of quota to individual vessels, fishermen, or other eligible recipients. IFQ programs have achieved many of the desired conservation and management benefits, such as helping to stabilize fisheries, reducing excessive investment in fishing capacity, and improving safety. However, concerns have been raised about the economic effects of IFQ programs on fish processors and fishing communities, among others. This testimony is based on two GAO reports on issues related to the use of IFQs (Individual Fishing Quotas: Better Information Could Improve Program Management, GAO-03- 159, Dec. 11, 2002, and Individual Fishing Quotas: Methods for Community Protection and New Entry Require Periodic Evaluation, GAO-04-277, Feb. 24, 2004). Specifically, GAO addressed the (1) economic effects of the Alaskan halibut IFQ program on processors and (2) the methods available for protecting communities under an IFQ program.

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