A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today concludes that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (now NOAA Fisheries) has not protected marine mammals from incidental injury or death resulting from commercial fishing activities.
Marine mammals that inhabit waters near commercial fishing can become entangled in fishing gear, often referred to as "incidental take." The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requires the NMFS to establish teams comprised of experts from the scientific community and the fishing industry to devise methods to reduce interactions between certain marine mammals and commercial fishing activities in an effort to prevent incidental deaths of these species.
The GAO report found that NMFS has failed to establish those teams for nearly half of the marine mammal stocks afforded protection under the MMPA, leaving these species severally jeopardized by commercial fishing activities. The agency also lacks a comprehensive process to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods proposed by teams that have been established.
The GAO report is here.