Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC)

The Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC), established in 2000, is a government – industry committee comprised of representatives from Canada and the United States. The Committee's purpose is to develop guidance in the form of harvest strategies, resource sharing and management processes for Canadian and U.S. management authorities for the cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder transboundary resources on Georges Bank. The Transboundary Resources Assessment Committee (TRAC) is the scientific arm of the TMGC which conducts the peer review of the transboundary resources considered by the TMGC.


Since 1977, with the declaration of exclusive economic zones by coastal states, only the U.S. and Canada have conducted fisheries for groundfish on Georges Bank. Immediately prior to this, the fisheries on Georges Bank fell under the mandate of the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries. The Commission coordinated stock evaluations and was also involved with management. The Commission was concerned with moderating increasing fishing effort during the 1960s and introduced catch quotas and area/season closures in the early 1970s.

After 1977, the U.S. and Canada used national institutions for stock evaluation. The analyses were supported by exchanges of respective fishery and scientific information as well as complementary participation in the review processes. The U.S. developed a Multispecies Fisheries Management Plan and turned largely to input controls, i.e. area/season closures, mesh size, trip limits, etc., for regulation, with all catch quotas being eliminated by the early 1980s. In addition, beginning in 1994 the U.S. implemented effort control mechanisms to reduce fishing pressure on groundfish stocks. The key components of the effort control measures included a limited entry program and a days-at-sea (DAS) program, which reduced the amount of time a vessel owner can participate in the groundfish fishery. By contrast, Canada embraced output controls, principally catch quotas, for regulation and developed reporting and monitoring systems to support it. Though both the U.S. and Canadian management systems have evolved over the years, this distinction remains.

The declaration of exclusive economic zones by the U.S. and Canada in 1977 gave rise to conflicting interest, with both nations claiming a disputed zone on eastern Georges Bank. Negotiations resulted in the proposed East Coast Fisheries Bilateral Agreement in 1979. Dissatisfaction with the terms of the agreement led to intense lobbying by fishing interests, and while both sides had signed the agreement, it was never ratified. The U.S. and Canada agreed to refer the boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice. In October 1984, the Court delivered its judgment and the international maritime boundary between the U.S. and Canada was established.

While fishing activities by the U.S. and Canada were subsequently restricted to their respective territories, the boundary did not resolve all fisheries management concerns. Several fisheries resources on Georges Bank are considered transboundary. A transboundary resource is one whose distribution spans the boundary and for which there is substantial migration and movement across the boundary. Active fisheries by the U.S. and Canada on Georges Bank for cod and haddock gave these transboundary resources a higher profile. Fishing intensity for groundfish increased rapidly during the late 1980s on both sides of the boundary. Calls to reduce exploitation were countered by arguments that conservation efforts were futile because the fish would be caught on the other side of the boundary anyway. While coordination of fisheries management strategies was virtually non-existent in those early years after the establishment of the boundary, U.S. and Canada reached agreement to cooperate in enforcing illegal incursions across the boundary.

While full benefits from the fisheries on transboundary resources would require consistent management between the U.S. and Canada, it was expected that independent action could contribute to rebuilding and sustainability of some management units. Consequently, Canada reduced quotas in the early 1990s to promote recovery of groundfish resources, and in particular, haddock. At about the same time, there were increasing concerns in the U.S. about the state of the haddock resource and this led to spatial and temporal extensions of the area/season closures in 1994. The 1992 year-class of haddock appeared promising and informal discussions between authorities led to a commitment by both the U.S. and Canada to limit harvesting and to use this potential towards rebuilding. The success of these coordinated actions promoted an increased frequency of informal meetings between U.S. and Canadian authorities to discuss common concerns regarding transboundary resources.

These consultations culminated in the formation of the Transboundary Management Guidance Committee (TMGC) to provide non-binding guidance to the two parties. The final agreed Terms of Reference were:

  1. Develop process for implementation of TMGC's recommendations.
  2. Recommend F-based harvesting strategies that are consistent with U.S. and Canadian objectives.
  3. Provide guidance on principles and options for determining a Canada-U.S. resource sharing strategy.
  4. Make recommendations for actual U.S. and Canadian harvest levels.
  5. Make other recommendations that are mutually beneficial to U.S. and Canadian fisheries.

In addition, it was also agreed to establish a common database for transboundary resources in the Gulf of Maine, covering as long a time period and as fine a spatial scale as reasonable, including:

  1. historical catch data
  2. research vessel survey data
  3. biological information on migration patterns, spawning areas and nursery grounds