Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) management and operation of its tuna and porpoise observer program, intended to monitor U.S. tuna fishing operations' compliance with regulations protecting porpoises.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 1. To improve the management of the tuna/porpoise observer program, the Department of Commerce's Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere should direct the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, to clearly define, and communicate to all parties, what constitutes harassment.
Closed - Implemented
The Department has developed a definition of harassment which was distributed to owners and operators of U.S. tuna boats on May 1, 1991.
Office of the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 2. To improve the management of the tuna/porpoise observer program, the Department of Commerce's Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere should direct the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, to reemphasize the requirement that observers document cases of harassment.
Closed - Implemented
Observers are not told to report all instances of harassment, however minor, during their pre-cruise meeting. The department has also redesigned the record book, developed a post-cruise questionnaire, and uses a personal enforcement interview to reveal and document any incidents of harassment.
Office of the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 3. To improve the management of the tuna/porpoise observer program, the Department of Commerce's Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere should direct the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, to provide the observers with means by which to quickly report problem harassment, such as maintaining adequate personal safety radio codes and requiring vessel owners to contact their captains on problem cruises.
Closed - Implemented
Observer personal status reports involving vessel captain discussion and owner participation, when needed, were developed and implemented on May 1, 1991.
Office of the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 4. To improve the management of the tuna/porpoise observer program, the Department of Commerce's Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere should direct the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, to implement improvements in the training program to help observers to better identify, document, and report harassment.
Closed - Implemented
Observer training instructions have been improved to identify, document, and report harassment.
Office of the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere 5. To improve the management of the tuna/porpoise observer program, the Department of Commerce's Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere should direct the Assistant Administrator, NMFS, to improve the internal controls over porpoise kill data by seeking an agreement with the Commission that its observers report by radio directly to the Fisheries Service each week.
Closed - Implemented
U.S. observers on vessels monitored by the Commission now directly radio porpoise kill data to NMFS for processing.

Full Report