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Highlights

Dedicated access privilege (DAP) programs are one tool the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) uses to help end overfishing and promote conservation. Under a DAP program, NMFS sets an allowable catch in a fishery and allocates the privilege to harvest a portion of the total to eligible entities, such as fishermen. Because DAP programs can have significant impacts on fishermen and their communities, many believe that effective participation by fishermen and other stakeholders in the development of these programs is critical. GAO was asked to determine (1) the extent to which the regional fishery management councils are using a framework for effective participation and (2) the methods stakeholders and participation experts suggest for enhancing stakeholder participation in developing DAP programs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce To enhance stakeholder participation in the development of DAP programs, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to direct the Director of NMFS to establish a formal policy for stakeholder participation, including adopting a set of core principles to guide stakeholder participation activities.
Closed - Implemented
On January 18, 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service adopted a formal stakeholder participation policy that included a set of core principles for engaging the public in the development of limited access privilege programs (formerly called dedicated access privilege programs).
Department of Commerce To enhance stakeholder participation in the development of DAP programs, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of NOAA to direct the Director of NMFS to provide guidance to the councils and train NMFS staff, council members, and council staff on developing and using a strategic approach to stakeholder participation.
Closed - Implemented
On November 16, 2007, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) established a website to serve as a clearinghouse for information and training materials related to stakeholder participation and limited access privilege programs (formerly called dedicated access privilege programs). In addition, the NMFS Office of Sustainable Fisheries hired a training coordinator who began work on January 8, 2007. The training coordinator's job, in part, is to support the training efforts of regional NMFS and council staffs as they relate to stakeholder involvement in the development of limited access privilege programs.
Department of Commerce To enhance stakeholder participation in the development of DAP programs, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of NOAA to direct the Director of NMFS to ensure that the councils develop and implement a framework for stakeholder participation that includes core principles and a strategic approach.
Closed - Implemented
On January 15, 2007, the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries sent a letter to the chairs and executive directors of the regional fishery management councils asking them to implement a framework for stakeholder participation that includes core principles and a strategic approach. The letter stated that NMFS will work with the councils to implement the policy and provided an Internet address for a NMFS website with information and training materials related to stakeholder participation and limited access privilege programs (formerly called dedicated access privilege programs).

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