Individual Fishing Quotas: Management Costs Varied and Were Not Recovered as Required

GAO-05-241 Published: Mar 11, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 2005.
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Highlights

Overfishing may have significant environmental and economic consequences. One tool used to maintain fisheries at sustainable levels is the individual fishing quota (IFQ), which sets individual catch limits for eligible vessel owners or operators. This is GAO's third study on IFQ programs. For this study, GAO determined (1) the costs of managing (i.e., administering, monitoring, and enforcing) IFQ programs and how these costs differ from pre-IFQ management costs; (2) what, if any, IFQ management costs are currently being recovered by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS); and (3) ways to share the costs of IFQ programs between government and industry.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
If the Congress would like NMFS to recover other than incremental costs, it may wish to clarify the IFQ cost recovery fee provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
Closed - Implemented
The Magnuson-Stevens Act was reauthorized and amended in January 2007. However, Congress made no change to the cost recovery fee provision for individual fishing quota and other limited access privilege programs to clarify that Congress would like the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to collect other than incremental costs. In November 2007, NMFS issued guidance to the fishery management councils stating that relevant costs to recover are the incremental costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce To comply with the cost recovery requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of NMFS to implement cost recovery for all IFQ programs.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2007, NMFS issued guidance to the fishery management councils stating that cost recovery must be implemented for all limited access privilege programs, including individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs. To do so for existing IFQ programs requires that regional fishery management councils amend the relevant fishery management plans and promulgate implementing regulations through a public notice and comment process. In July 2009, NMFS reported that councils have begun the process to amend the management plans for surfclam/ocean quahogs and wreckfish--the two IFQ fisheries for which NMFS had not implemented cost recovery at the time of GAO's report.
Department of Commerce To comply with the cost recovery requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Director of NMFS to develop guidance regarding which costs are to be recovered and, when actual cost information is unavailable, how to estimate these costs.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued guidance to the fishery management councils regarding the costs to be recovered for limited access privilege programs, such as individual fishing quota programs, and, when actual cost information is unavailable, how to estimate these costs.

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