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Has the public cost of fishery management changed?

Indicators: Appropriations, Grants and Expenditures | NE Sector Program Appropriations and Costs

Short Answer: Public funding for the Northeast Sector Program began with a substantial upfront investment in FY2010, peaked in FY2011, and has decreased since then.

Key Findings

  • The Northeast Sector Program received public financing through budget appropriations, federal grants, and disaster relief funds.
  • Federal support for monitoring and enforcement activities, including at-sea and dockside monitoring, made substantial upfront investments, but tapered off.
  • Overall national catch share program funding received an initial appropriation of $41 million in FY2011, then dropped and remained constant at levels below $28 million for FY2012-2016.

Interactive Charts


This indicator shows the amount of money spent by government managers to develop and implement catch share programs. Appropriations enacted by Congress to support fishery management by NMFS are shown in Chart 1. These are national figures, drawn from the agency budget. Expenditures specific to the Northeast Sector Program are provided in the  for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. Grant programs including multi-year cooperative agreements to finance the operations of the New England Council, cooperative research, Saltonstall-Kennedy, and others are shown in Chart 2.


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

The development of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, as part of Amendment 16 (Northeast Groundfish Management Framework), was time and resource intensive for the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), NMFS, Northeast Fishery Science Center, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at all levels.

Council funding for programs, projects, and activities increased steadily from 2005. Specific expenditures for development of the catch share program were reported in 2009, with completion of Amendment 16. In 2008, additional staff was required to work on sector program development in the multispecies groundfish fishery (Management Time).

In addition to Ccouncil activities, federal funding for NMFS activities in the Greater Atlantic Region are requested through the NOAA component of the Department of Commerce budget and approved by Congress. During the period reported, federal spending authority was provided by enacted appropriations, transfers of resources between budget lines, annualized continuing resolutions to maintain prior year funding levels, and line item add-ons by Congress. During the project baseline, in the absence of an appropriation to support development and implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program and other quota programs, NMFS made more than $16 million available for the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program development by transferring funds from other appropriated line items and programs.

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 project baseline.

During Catch Share Program

The transition to sector management in New England was costly and labor intensive. In 2010 and 2011, the Northeast received more than $42 million of federal support allocated to activities related to implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program. Disaster relief, grants, contracts, and loans also comprised significant funding received by the Northeast groundfish fishery during the 1990s and early 2000s along with compensation related to the Sector Program in 2014 (Disaster Relief and Other Assistance ).

Once the program was approved, continued federal support followed investments made during the baseline to build capacity in the fleet to manage sector allocations, monitoring, reporting, and other additional activities performed by the NEFMC and NMFS managers.

Grants to the Council from 2010 through 2016 provided for the costs of staff, meetings, and operations for the Council as a whole (managing nine fishery management plans). Though itemized costs are not broken out, the cost of activities related to the catch share program included improving fleet diversity, supporting sector management, promoting fishing business stability, addressing excessive shares, and implementing electronic monitoring.

Across national fishery management activities, national catch share program funding decreased substantially following the initial funding level of $41 million in FY2011 to levels below $28 million for FY2012-2016, while support for observers and enforcement increased over the period. Activities conducted by NMFS specifically related to the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, though noted in the narrative that supports the agency’s funding request, they are not listed as separate budget items. The [other indicator link] shows that dollar amounts for particular activities in the Northeast for fiscal years 2009 through 2014 increased to a high of nearly $23 million in FY2011, declining to $17 million in FY2014.

A Note on Litigation Costs

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 agency budgets, though litigation in relation to catch share programs has resulted in staff and resource needs to address law suits. Litigation related to the Northeast groundfish fishery is detailed in the interactive timelines provided in Litigation and in History of the Fishery.

Data Gaps and Limitations

Public costs associated with development and implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program are reported in a variety of sources but are not tracked by line item in either the NMFS budget or in Council grant documents. Although agency budget justifications call out numerous expenditures and activities related to catch share development and implementation, these costs are not identified by program to any of the 11 catch share systems in place during the project baseline, or the five additional programs that took effect from 2010 through early 2015. In January 2014, the Measuring Effects of Catch Shares Project submitted a data request to NOAA Fisheries to identify the amount of federal agency expenditures attributable to activities related to the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program. NMFS responded to the data request in November 2016. It was not possible to obtain information for FY2015 or FY2016 within the duration of the project.

Information Sources

Department of Commerce, NOAA. Blue Books. 2002–2017. Available online: www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/nbo/

New England Fishery Management Council. 2013. Statement of Organization Practices and Procedures. August 19, 2013. Available online: http://www.nefmc.org/about/index.html

New England Fishery Management Council. 2014 Progress Report, Award Period 1/1/2010 – 12/31/2014, Reporting Period 10/1/13 – 12/31/15, NA10NMF44100008

New England Fishery Management Council. 2016 Progress Report, Award Period 1/1/15 – 12/31/19, Reporting Period 10/1/15 – 9/30/16, NA15NMF4410007

Updated: June 2018

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