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Has the public cost of fishery management changed?

Indicator: Cost of Fishery Management: Public

Key Findings

The primary cost to the public during the baseline period (2002–2010) were expenditures related to development of what eventually was adopted as the Shorebased IFQ Program. These activities included planning, development of amendments and frameworks, regulatory analyses, and public process at both the Pacific Fishery Management Council and NMFS. The Council receives funding for its operations through a multi-year, cooperative agreement with NMFS. Public costs for development and implementation of the program at the Council level were $1.42 million during the baseline and $600,000 after implementation. At the national level, the public costs to develop catch share programs are not quantifiable because they were not formally budgeted for that purpose. After implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program in 2011. Congress appropriated funds for a National Catch Share Program, but the amounts are not identifiable to any specific catch share program.


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

The Pacific Fishery Management Council receives funding for its operations through a cooperative agreement with NMFS. This support is subject to the budget and appropriations process. In addition to multi-year grants to support ongoing Council functions, the Council may receive programmatic grants for specific work such as FMP development.

Specific grants for development of the catch share program began in 2006. The first grant was “to allow continued progress on the development and analysis of the trawl individual quota program environmental impact statement.” Over the baseline period the Council received $1.42 million for costs related to development of the Shorebased IFQ Program as part of its operating budget. It is not possible to isolate the amounts dedicated to the shorebased elements of program development from activities related to amendments to offshore whiting operations.

During the baseline period NMFS used portions of its budget to support development and implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program and other quota programs. Line items for West Coast observers were identified specifically in budget documents only for FY 2003 and FY 2004 in the amount of $3.7 and $4.8 million respectively.

The first time catch share programs were identified as specific activities in the NMFS budget request was for FY2008 (calendar year 2007), when the agency requested, but did not receive, $6 million to develop and manage them. The next year, NMFS proposed a $4.8 million increase in funding in order to double the number of programs to 16 by 2011. In its FY2011 request, NMFS proposed an additional $36.6 million, for a total of $54 million, to implement catch share programs including the Shorebased IFQ Program. These amounts were identified as catch share program costs and requested, but not enacted by Congress. During the baseline, Congress did not appropriate any funds for the line item associated with national catch share activities. During this period, NMFS supported the development of catch shares, but amounts are not identifiable.

Activities identified in budget documents as public costs related to the development of catch shares include support of management teams, development of amendments or frameworks, required regulatory analyses, and support of the Council process. Development of catch share programs also relied upon a variety of management actions funded in alternative line items such as data collection, including improvements in the fish stock sustainability index, development and installation of vessel monitoring systems, socio-economic data collection, and data management systems. Funding for observers and for socio-economic data collection increased during the baseline period. In future reporting, the Measuring Effects of Catch Shares Project will attempt to isolate the amount attributable to the Shorebased IFQ Program.

During Catch Share Program 

Following catch-share implementation, both the Council and NMFS began to identify costs specifically related to the Shorebased IFQ Program. These include work on trailing amendments, development of a cost-recovery program as required under the MSA, preparation of regulatory packages, creation of databases and computer applications, and issuing of permits and initial shares. Operational phase costs identified are enforcement, VMS tracking, adjustments to computer and accounting systems, and regulatory changes. In addition, the Shorebased IFQ Program required that observers be present on 100 percent of trips under the catch share program (Shorebased IFQ Program). This target represents a fivefold increase in observer coverage compared to the baseline period (Data Quality: Observer Coverage).

The amount of the Council’s operating budget identified to the Shorebased IFQ Program was $600,000 in FY2011. The first line item amount enacted to support the National Catch Share Program was $41.9 million in FY2011. In subsequent years, Congress appropriated $27.9 and $28.0 million. In future reporting, the Measuring Effects of Catch Shares Project will attempt to isolate the amount attributable to the Shorebased IFQ Program.

A Note on Litigation Costs

Litigation is not called out in budget documents as a cost related to implementation of catch share programs. The public costs of maintaining NOAA’s Office of General Counsel and other aspects of legal review and defense against lawsuits are not separately identified in the agency budget request. However, the cost of litigation—both in actual costs of defending the case and in lost economic opportunities because of delay and uncertainty—can be seen in the effects of legal action brought in relation to the Shorebased IFQ Program, specifically Pacific Dawn v. Locke (2011).

The Pacific Dawn lawsuit challenged the Shorebased IFQ Program’s initial quota allocation, a step in the development of catch share programs recognized in literature as the most contentious aspect of any program. The court found merit in the claim of the plaintiffs that NMFS arbitrarily considered different years as “history” for participation in the fishery. The court set aside the regulations and remanded them to the agency in late 2011. The final rule revising the allocation was published in March 2013. In addition to the time and fiscal resources NMFS expended as a result of the Pacific Dawn lawsuit, the Council discussed the case in numerous meetings over the two-year period. Furthermore, Council actions to develop trailing amendments to the Shorebased IFQ Program were delayed while the allocation formula issues were being resolved.

Data Gaps and Limitations

Public costs associated with development and implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program are not evident outside the Council level. A better understanding of the amount of public funding expended on the program would emerge with identification of federal agency costs related to this program. Although agency budget justifications call out numerous expenditures and activities related to catch share development and implementation, these costs are not identified to any of the 11 programs in place during the baseline, or the four additional programs that took effect in 2010 and 2011.

Information Sources

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Blue Books. 2002–2012. Available online: www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/nbo/

Pacific Fishery Management Council. Briefing Book Archives: Budget Committee Reports 2002 – 2012. Available online: www.pcouncil.org/council-operations/council-meetings/past-meetings/

Pacific Fishery Management Council. Briefing Book Archives: Decisions March 2012. Available online: www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/0312decisions.pdf

Library of Congress. THOMAS Appropriations Committee Reports. Available online: thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app13.html

U.S. Government Accounting Office. 2005. Individual Fishing Quotas: Management Costs Varied and Were Not Recovered as Required. GAO-05-241. March 2005.

Updated: January 2015

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