Site by N.E. Stolpe

Number 4
November 7, 1998

Link to NJ Fishing Consumer Alert page Link to NJ Fishing Consumer Alert page

Conflict of interest and fisheries management.....

During the last reauthorization of the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation and Management Act a lot of attention was directed - particularly by the anti-commercial fishing interests - to commercial fishermen or others associated with the industry who had voting seats on the regional management councils. According to the arguments used then, the effectiveness of the entire system was being severely compromised by the conflicts of interests that this allowed. As an example of how “compromised” the management system actually is, 5 voting members out of a toatl of 21 on the Mid-Atlantic Council work for the commercial fishing industry.

However, from a commercial fishing/seafood consumer perspective, there really is a serious cause for concern about financially compromised fisheries management decision making. This revolves around the Wallop Breaux program that provides the fiscal underpinnings of every state’s fisheries research and management programs.

What is Wallop Breaux?  As explained in the House Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans’ oversight plan “Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1952 (Sport Fishing and Boating Enhancement Fund or the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund): This fund is derived from fees, taxes, and duties imposed on (recreational) fishing equipment, (non-commercial) motorboat fuel, imported watercraft, and fishing tackle. The revenues are allocated to the States, on a formula basis, and are used to protect natural resources and enhance recreational (fishing and boating) opportunities for millions of Americans. Since its inception, more than $2 billion has been collected and allocated to the States.” In recent years this fund has provided over $350 million annually to the various State agencies responsible for managing fresh and salt water fish. Understandably these funds are dedicated to recreational boating and fishing programs and projects, on face value an example of users paying the fees and getting the government services in return. But is it really that simple? [Link to FWS synopsis of the Wallop Breaux Actlink to the Fish and Wildlife Service's synopsis of the Wallop Breaux program at the bottom of this page].

The Magnuson Act specifies that the heads of each states’ fisheries agencies, along with recreational and commercial fishing representatives, are voting members of their region’s Management Councils. As the boxbelow shows, they make up a significant voting block on each Council. The same officials also have one-third of the votes on the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions. So far this seems  reasonable. They are representing the particular interests of all of their State’s citizens, including the non-fishing majority. It’s to be expected that they - and the agencies they head - do this equitably, not favoring one user group over another and objectively considering fisheries and habitat issues for the “greater” good. Without Wallop Breaux funding there would be no reason to question this.

However, the millions of Wallop Breaux dollars pumped into their agencies’ budgets every year might well call that objectivity into question. Looking again at the Mid-Atlantic, the 7 state fisheries agencies whose directors hold one third of the votes on the regional management council are collectively receiving over $20 million a year from recreational fishing and boating expenditures in their States. In the chronically underfunded fisheries research/management world this can’t be seen as anything other than a bureaucratic gold mine. (To provide a frame of reference, there aren’t a half dozen commercial fisheries in the Mid-Atlantic that produce $20 million of fish a year.)

Wallop Breaux funding and
Fisheries Management Council membership

Regional Council
Percentage of members who are stae agency heads
Wallop Breaux funds going to member states
New England
$9 million
 $21 million
South Atlantic
$13 million
$22 million
$21 million
North Pacific
$18 million

But, we might argue, these are dedicated professionals who wouldn’t let an issue as trivial as where their agency’s funds are coming from influence the decision-making process that they are such an influential part of. Unfortunately, it appears as if this might not be the case. Quoting from a guest editorial “Reaching Out to a Non-angling Public” in the current American Fisheries Society’s journal Fisheries that was written by Doug Alcorn of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“Higher rates of fishing and boating participation mean more license sales as well and Wallop-Breaux funds that support state resource management programs....Joe Janisch, president of the (AFS) Fisheries Administrators Section and chief of fisheries for the Arizona Department of Fish and Game, concurs, “....As biologists or administrators there is only so much we can do without customer support. Marketing to maintain or increase a recreational market share is where our power base lies. If we don’t have the public (anglers and boaters) on our side, seeing the issues from our point of view, they will be on the other side asking us why.”

Mr. Alcorn’s editorial certainly makes it look like it isn’t - and we suspect that every State fisheries director with a vote on a regional management council is a member of the Fisheries Administrators Section of the American Fisheries Society that Mr. Janisch is speaking for. If the “other side” Mr. Janisch refers to is the commercial fishing industry and the non-fishing (and non-Wallop Breaux contributing) seafood consuming public it supplies, we would suggest that same public might have an interest in where his increased recreational market share is coming from.

What could this mean outside the fisheries research/management bureaucracy? The most obvious implications concern resource allocation decisions between the commercial and recreational harvesting sectors. [Link to artificial reef sectionfor a look at a possible "real world" example of the results of such an allocation conflict].  Stated most simply, it boils down to a simple “an increase in the fish available to recreational anglers equals an increase in the Wallop Breaux funds available to the State fisheries agencies.”

With millions of Wallop Breaux dollars already pouring into the various State’s fisheries agencies and with so many of our fisheries reportedly overfished, would any rational management system want more funds to support even more fishing? In Survey of Future Sport Fish Restoration Fund Needs, 1993-2003 (completed by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the American League of Anglers and Boaters) the 1996 apportionment of (Wallop Breaux) Sportfish Restoration Funds to all States was reported as $197,136,893. The results of a state-by-state survey indicated that, to meet the collective states’ expectations, the fund would have to provide $470,365,820 a year in the year 2003. The American Fisheries Society’s comment: “In order to continue to provide excellent recreational opportunities through the conservation of our nation's sport fisheries and access to boating facilities, this need must be met.” [Link to AFS Wallop Breaux Future Needs page link to the AFS "Future Needs" page]

From Restoring Our Nation’s Sport Fisheries By D. Crandall and V. Floyd (the American League of Anglers and Boaters) “Sometime this year, Congress is expected to revisit the decades-old Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, when legislators deliberate reauthorizing the allocation of motorboat and small engines gas tax transferred annually from the Highway Trust Fund. The gas tax portion of the Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program netted $245 million in 1996....Overall, this important aquatic resources program, paid for by anglers and boaters from taxes on fishing gear and boat fuel, generates more than $350 million annually, making it a financial backbone, indeed lifeline, for state fisheries.”
[Link to AFS Wallop Breaux Information Kit link to the American Fisheries Society's Wallop Breaux site]

While the American Fisheries Society - an organization that is consistently outspoken in condemning commercial fishing practices - has taken a commendable position on Wallop Breaux funded fisheries “conservation” efforts, at the same time it seems to ignore the fact that tens of millions of Wallop Breaux dollars are being used to increase recreational fishing and boating access. According to a press release provided on the American Fisheries Society’s web site (link above) “Wallop Breaux program partners accomplished the following between 1986 and 1993: 1,600 new public boat launching ramps and related facilities built; 9,700 public boat ramps improved; 600 roads built to provide access to public waters; 1,500 new fishing access sites developed; and at least 170 properties and over 50,000 acres acquired to improve access to public waters.”  It’s a little difficult to reconcile the Fisheries Society’s zealous pro-conservation posture (exclusively focused on commercial fishing, of course) with it’s pep rally enthusiasm for projects that encourage ever higher levels of recreational boating and fishing. As far as we know neither of these conserve anything but the level of Wallop Breaux funding going to Society members. But, in spite of the seeming contradictions and assuming that the Society’s institutional heart is really in the proper pro-conservation place, one question still remains: Where are the fish coming from to support this increased level of recreational angling, to entice more and more people to spend more and more money to catch more and more fish?

We hope they aren’t coming from U.S. consumers via reduced commercial allocations but we’d be surprised if they weren’t. The fisheries management establishment has much to gain and nothing to lose by increasing allocations to the recreational anglers whose leisure-time expenditures support it. Is such an arrangement adequate for meeting the needs of the non-fishing seafood consumers and equitably allocating fish between competing recreational and commercial users?

Note: Over the years we’ve been fortunate to know and work with many professional fisheries managers and our intentions here aren’t to question their or any of their colleague’s individual objectivity or integrity. Our concerns rest entirely with the bureaucratic system they are a part of.

Artificial Reefs - more fish for the anglers and more dollars 
for the managers, but who's watching out for the consumers?
(or the environment?)

Photo of Tires on a NC beach
Artificial reef remnants on a Pine Knoll Shores, NC beach after hurricane Bonnie (Philadelphia Inquirer August 29, 1998)

The New Jersey Artificial Reef Program
[Link to NJ Reefs source link to source]

"Since the inception of the State's Reef Program in 1984, 1,015 patch reefs have been built on New Jersey's network of 14 ocean  reef sites. A patch reef is a one-half to several acre reef created by sinking a ship or placing a barge-load of other material on the sea floor. In 1996, 107 patch reefs were constructed, bringing the total to over 1,000 for the 13 year project…..Recognizing that reefs in the mid-section of the state are outside the range of demolition contractors, we have targeted these sites for ballasted tire units, army tanks and small vessels."

Note: Another aspect of the management establishment's tremenduous reliance on Wallop Breaux funding and the attendant emphasis on increasing recreational fishing and boating expenditures are the so-called "artificial reef" programs.  These programs, most of which could just as accurately be termed "dump it in the ocean" programs, have been enthusiastically embraced by many coastal state's fisheries agencies - including New Jersey's. 

In these programs large amounts of refuse - historically old tires and construction rubble, more recently weaponry no longer needed by the Pentagon - are disposed of on designated areas of ocean bottom to attract fish (and to increase Wallop Breaux taxable expenditures). Unfortunately - at least for consumers - these "reefs" attract fish through several different biological mechanisms. It's generally agreed that, while they increase overall fish production by adding more solid substrate, they also attract fish from surrounding reef-less areas. Closing off the area around the reef to commercial harvesting doesn’t reserve just the "extra" fish that the reef produces for recreational anglers, it is also removing fish from the areas that remain open to commercial harvesters and reserving them for the recreational anglers as well. The commercial fishermen lose not only the ability to fish on the area of productive bottom surrounding the reef, they also lose many of the fish from the areas that remain open to commercial harvesting. The programs provide more fish for the recreational anglersw, more Wallop Breaux funds for the fisheries managers, and less fish for the non-fishing public.


- The Oil Slick -
From the National Marine Manufacturers Association website’s Frequently Asked Questions About Recreational Boating And Water Quality [Link to NMMA FAQ page]: “The scientific data clearly indicates that although 20-to-25 percent of the fuel consumed by an outboard bypasses the combustion process and exits the exhaust, only a fraction goes into the water.” Considering the hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel used annually by recreational boaters and fishermen, that “fraction” probably represents a whole lot of gasoline, oil and additives. But in spite of that, in 20 years no serious research has been done on either what that fraction is, what it does, or what the combustion products of those same outboards are or do. More Wallop Breaux influence?


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Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act

This Act, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (16 U.S.C. 777-777k, 64 Stat. 430), as amended. This August 9,  1950, Act has been amended several times and was commonly called the Dingell-Johnson Act. It provides Federal aid to the States for management and restoration of fish having "material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States." 

Funds from a 10-percent excise tax on certain items of sport fishing tackle (Internal Revenue Code of 1954, sec. 4161) are permanently appropriated (see P.L. 136, August 31, 1951; 65 Stat. 262) to the Secretary of the Interior and apportioned to States on a formula basis for paying up to 75 percent of the cost of approved projects. Project activities include acquisition and improvement of sport fish habitat, stocking of fish, research into fishery resource problems, surveys and inventories of sport fish populations, and acquisition and development of access facilities for public use. 

Public Law 91-503, approved October 23, 1970 (84 Stat. 1101) provided, among other things, for development of comprehensive fish and wildlife resource management plans as an optional means for participating in the program. 

Public Law 98-369, approved July 18, 1984 (26 U.S.C. 1 note, 98 Stat. 502) created the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund comprised of the Sport Fish Restoration Account and the Boating Safety Account. This amendment expanded the items of fishing tackle subject to the 10-percent excise tax and imposed a new 3-percent excise tax on fish finders and electric trolling motors. In addition, it provided for the deposit of receipts from these excise taxes and from the following sources into the Sport Fish Restoration Account: the motorboat fuels tax revenues less amounts deposited into the Boating Safety Account, and the import duties on fishing tackle, yachts and pleasure craft. 

Public Law 98-369 also amended the Sport Fish Restoration Act to require the States to equitably allocate these new funds between marine and fresh water projects and to allocate 10 percent of apportionments to boating facilities. Payments for multi-year projects were authorized; the administrative expense deduction was reduced from 8 percent to 6 percent; up to 10 percent was authorized for aquatic resources education; and the District of Columbia was qualified for 1/3 of 1 percent. 

The effective date of these amendments was October 1, 1984, and they are commonly called the Wallop-Breaux amendments. 

Public Law 100-448, approved September 28, 1988 (102 Stat. 1836) increased the amount authorized to be appropriated from the motor boat fuels tax receipts into the Boating Safety Account from $45 million to $60 million for Fiscal Years 1989 and 1990, then to $70 million for Fiscal Years 1991, 1992, and 1993. It also amended the Sport Fish Restoration Act to require States to equitably allocate all amounts apportioned between marine and freshwater projects, with no State to receive less than the amount apportioned in 1988. 

Public Law 100-17, which became law on April 2, 1987, over the President's veto, (101 Stat. 132) extended the imposition of the motor boat fuels tax to October 1993. 

Title XI of P.L. 101-508 (approved November 5, 1990; 104 Stat. 1388-425) repealed the Internal Revenue Code provision that established an expiration date for the motorboat fuel tax. The rate and duration of the tax are as follows: the 14 cents tax in effect as of December 18, 1991, is composed of the sum of the Highway Trust Fund financing rate (11 1/2 cents) and the deficit reduction rate (2 1/2 cents). The Highway Trust Fund financing rate authority expires in 1999, and the deficit reduction rate will expire in 1995. 

Title VIII of P.L. 102-240 (approved December 18, 1991; 105 Stat. 1914) extended the appropriation to the Highway Trust Fund of, among other receipts, amounts equivalent to taxes received from motorboat fuels through September 30, 1999. It also extended through September 30, 1997, the requirement to transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the Boat Safety Account amounts attributable to the motorboat fuels tax. It extended through September 30, 1997, the requirement to transfer from the Highway Trust Fund to the Sport Fish Restoration Account amounts equivalent to the small-engine fuel tax receipts. Finally, it extended through March 31, 1998, the authority for expenditures from the Boat Safety Account. 

Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Clean Vessel Act of 1992

This Act, Clean Vessel Act of 1992, Subtitle V(F) of P.L. 102-587, signed November 4, 1992 (106 Stat. 5039) amends the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Wallop-Breaux Act; 16 U.S.C. 777) to allow the Secretary of Interior to issue grants to coastal and inland States for pumpout stations and waste reception facilities to dispose of recreational boater sewage. Provisions include: 

o Directs the Secretary of the Interior to provide grants to States to pay for the construction, renovation, operation, and maintenance of pumpout stations and waste reception facilities. 

o Requires each coastal State to conduct a survey to determine the number and location of all operational pumpout facilities and the number of recreational vessels in the area with certain marine sanitation devices (Type III) or portable toilets. 

o Requires each coastal State to develop and submit a plan for the construction and/or renovation of an adequate number of pumpout stations and waste reception facilities within the coastal zone of the State. Also requires States to notify the 
Secretary of the Interior of the number of facilities that are operational at the time the plan is submitted. 

o Requires the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to publish charts indicating the locations of pumpout and waste reception facilities. 

o Allows the Secretary of the Interior to issue grants to inland States which demonstrate a need for pumpout stations and waste reception devices. 

o Provides the following amounts to the Secretary for the Clean Vessel grant program: $5 million for Fiscal Year 1993, $7.5 million for each of Fiscal Years 1994 and 1995, and $10 million for each of Fiscal Years 1996 and   1997. 

o Increases from 10 percent to 12.5 percent the amount available in the Wallop-Breaux account for States to improve access to public waters. 

o Directs the Secretary to apportion among the States the funds remaining in the account after deductions have been made for the coastal wetlands, clean vessel and boating safety programs. 

o Directs that unobligated amounts in the clean vessel grant program be transferred to the Department of Transportation for the boating safety program, if these funds remain unobligated after 2 years. 

o Directs that $20 million from the Wallop-Breaux account be transferred to the Department of Transportation for the boating safety program in Fiscal Year 1998. 

o Provides the following amounts to the Department of Transportation for the State recreational boating safety program: $5 million for Fiscal Year 1993, $7.5 million for each of Fiscal years 1994 and 1995, and $10 million for Fiscal Years 1996 and   199  7. 

o Directs the Secretary of the Interior to spend 18 percent of funds in the Wallop-Breaux account for the   Coastal Wetlands, Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (P.L.   101-646). 

The Service is required to: 

o Award grants to coastal States for up to 75 percent of the costs for conducting surveys, developing and submitting plans, and constructing and renovating facilities for pumpout stations and waste reception facilities, as well as conducting a program to educate recreational boaters about these accommodations. 

o Award grants to inland States for up to 75 percent of the costs for constructing and renovating pumpout stations and  waste reception facilities and for conducting a program to educate recreational boaters about these accommodations. 

o Issue pumpout station and waste reception facility guidance for public comment, not later than 3 months after the date of enactment (by February 4, 1993). 

o Finalize the guidance, not later than 6 months after the date of enactment (by May 4, 1993). 

o Notify, in writing, the fish and wildlife, water pollution control, and coastal zone management authorities of each State of the issuance of the guidance and the availability of funds to implement the Clean Vessel Act. 

o Approve or disapprove State plans, not later than 60 days after each plan has been submitted, and notify the Governor of the Service's position. 

o Recommend modifications and return the plan to the affected Governor, if the plan is unacceptable. 

o Provide a list of operational stations and facilities to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, not later than 30 days after the date of receipt of the list of facilities from the State. 

o Notify the Under Secretary of the location of each station or facility constructed or renovated with Wallop-Breaux funds. 

The legislative history includes: House Report 102-251, Senate Report 102-422, and Congressional Record pages E813, 
March 7, 1991; H7823 - 25, October 15, 1991; H11766 - 793, October 5, 1992; and S17431 - 33, October 7, 1992. 

This authority is administered by the Assistant Director - External Affairs (Division of Federal Aid).