In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama joked about the state of salmon.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater,” he said. “I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

A year later, that line became more than a joke after the President announced his intention to merge the National Marine Fisheries Service into the Department of the Interior, part of an effort to streamline government.

The Government Accounting Office followed up on the president’s idea and released a report last month calling the suggestion a mixed bag at best. “Overall, officials and stakeholders generally said the drawbacks of reorganizing the agencies outweigh the benefits,” the report’s summary stated.

No place in America would be more affected by a merger than Kodiak.

NMFS is the lead regulatory agency for the nation’s fisheries and has a commercial bent — its primary goal is sustained production.

According to the President’s proposal, NMFS would move from the Department of Commerce and be placed into the Fish and Wildlife Service, which controls a majority of Kodiak Island through the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

FWS’ first two stated goals are to conserve and protect “fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

While the GAO report says the two agencies have similar research and protection teams, and a merger could realize some cost savings, the report also states that there could be an irreconcilable conflict between the two agencies’ missions.

“A key potential drawback of merging the agencies, some officials and stakeholders said, is the disruption it could cause to fisheries management, particularly for commercial fisheries,” the report reads.

That disruption to the fishing industry would cause economic turmoil for Kodiak in particular and likely would gain little savings for the federal government.

“Many officials and stakeholders we interviewed, however, told us they believed that few, if any, opportunities exist for significant cost savings,” the report reads.

To read the full report, visit

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at

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