203. Information collection.

[MSFCMA section 402]


This section combines and embellishes existing sections 303(e), 303(d), and 303(f). Marine Fisheries Commission employees may now receive confidential information on the same terms as State employees. Such information may also be disclosed to verify catch histories for IFQ programs or when the submitter authorizes the release. Section 402(b)(1)(E) allows observer information in the North Pacific to be released, but it was not considered confidential information in the first place. NMFS is directed to issue regulations ensuring confidentiality, if we want to require submission of income tax returns to verify that an applicant is qualified for a permit. The section adds authorization for sole-source grants for information collection "or other programs" to States, Councils, and Marine Fisheries Commissions. Another addition is authorization of the use of private fishing vessels to conduct resource surveys. A contractor under this provision could be compensated by selling the fish harvested during the survey, or by being allowed to catch and sell fish harvested subsequently. NMFS may allow fish harvested during a contract survey to count toward a vessel's catch history, under certain circumstances. The Secretary is urged to expand annual resource surveys in all regions.

Legislative history:

The statement in the Senate report that information collected in voluntary programs cannot be used in enforcement proceedings is incorrect; there is no change in the status quo. The provision on catch history stems from one fisherman's assertion that he would have had a better catch history if he had not been conducting a resource survey. Note that the provision is completely discretionary and is not retroactive. Congressman Young said that these data collection provisions are not to be interpreted as requiring Paperwork Reduction Act review "or agency approval under that Act." Since the legislation does not express that sentiment, however, we cannot impute a PRA exemption.


The Department of Commerce's Office of General Counsel has recommended that NMFS establish a procedure for notifying all interested fishermen of research opportunities, and for selecting participants in a fair and equitable manner. See also the discussion under  108(c) on paying for surveys with fish. NMFS is requesting an opinion from the Department of Commerce's Office of General Counsel on the eligibility of Councils to receive Saltonstall-Kennedy grants under section 402(d)(2). Earlier OGC opinions ruled Councils ineligible, based on an augmentation of appropriations without specific statutory authority. NMFS also asks for an interpretation of the phrase "or other programs."
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