The NAS/NRC Need to Know About NOAA/NMFS’ IQA Requirements
The National Research Council, of the National Academy of Sciences, is reviewing “Ecological Risk Assessment Under FIFRA and ESA.” The NAS/NRC is performing this review at the request of EPA, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture.
The NAS/NRC review site is at
Specific topics that the NAS/NRC will consider during its review include the following:
Best available scientific data and information. The Services and EPA approach the identification of ‘best available scientific information’ using a variety of differing protocols pertaining to the type and character of scientific information that may be appropriate for these evaluations. Some of these approaches pertain to the character of the information as consensus information, peer-reviewed information, regulatory studies supporting pesticide registrations, or other published and unpublished information. The NRC will evaluate those protocols with respect to validity, availability, consistency, clarity, and utility.”
NMFS has presented many materials to the NAS/NRC as background for their review. None of NMFS’ materials mentions the Information Quality Act (“IQA”) or NMFS’ IQA Guidelines. This omission is surprising because the IQA governs NMFS’ determination of the “utility” (as well as the accuracy and reliability) of the information that NMFS disseminates under the Endangered Species Act, including NMFS’ biological opinions for pesticides under Section 7 of the ESA.
NMFS’ IQA guidelines are available online at Policy Directive on Policy on the Data Quality Act, https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/policies/04-108.pdf , and at https://grunt.sefsc.noaa.gov/iqa/ . They impose standards on the accuracy, reliability, reproducibility, transparency and utility of the information that NMFS’s disseminates during the ESA Section 7 consultation process and elsewhere.
NMFS’ Instruction on NMFS Data Documentation states at pages 11-12 that all non-exempt NMFS data disseminations must meet NMFS’ IQA guidelines. https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/procedures/04-111-01.pdf . The ESA consultation process is not exempt from IQA requirements.
To help achieve these requirements, NMFS’ Instruction on Section 515 Pre-dissemination Review and Documentation Form provides a check list for IQA compliance that must be completed and signed before NMFS disseminates information. https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/procedures/04-108-02.pdf
These pre-dissemination review requirements, and all other IQA requirements, apply to biological opinions that NMFS disseminates during Section 7 ESA consultations. http://www.swr.noaa.gov/ocap/Information_Quality_Act-Pre-Dissemination_Review_&_Documentation_Form.pdf
NMFS’ administrative record for ESA consultations must show IQA compliance. NMFS’ Instruction on Guidelines for Agency Administrative Records, https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/procedures/30-123-01.pdf , states at pages 2-3 that:
“The AR [Administrative Record] first must document the process the agency used in reaching its final decision in order to show that the agency followed required procedures. For NOAA actions, procedural requirements include…the Information Quality Act….”
Similarly, NMFS’ Directive on Data and Information Management , https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/policies/04-111.pdf ,
states at page 3 that
“General Policy and Requirements
A. Data are among the most valuable public assets that NMFS controls, and are an essential enabler of the NMFS mission. The data will be visible, accessible, and understandable to authorized users to support mission objectives, in compliance with OMB guidelines for implementing the “Information Quality Act” (IQA…)”
Several NMFS’ guidance documents expressly and specifically apply IQA requirements to NMFS’ ESA actions.
For example, NMFS’ Instruction on Endangered Species Act 5-Year Review Guidance states on pages 1-3 to 1-4 that NMFS’ IQA guidelines are requirements that apply to NMFS’ 5-year reviews under the ESA. https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/procedures/02-110-15.pdf .
Also, NMFS’ Instruction on Endangered Species Act Interim Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Planning Guidance states at page 1.2-2 to 1.2-3 that NMFS’ IQA Guidelines apply to NMFS’ ESA Recovery Plans. This NMFS Instruction additionally states at page 4.6-1 that
“in 2002 NOAA released Information Quality Guidelines (required under the Data Quality Act of 2002 (P.L. 106-554)) that direct that all information sources and analyses used in
NOAA documents be checked and documented through a formal system of management review and oversight (NOAA 2002; see Appendix N). Together, these policies hold managers and decisionmakers accountable for ensuring that the data and analyses used in recovery planning are sound and that the documents conform to ESA.”
Moreover, NMFS’ Policy Directive on Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions, https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/policies/02-109.pdf, states at page 15112:
In Accordance with section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001(Public Law 106–554), OMB directed Federal agencies to issue and implement guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of Government information disseminated to the public (67 FR 8452).
Under our Information Quality guidelines, if we use a conservation plan or agreement as part of our decision to either list or not list a species under the Act, the plan or agreement is considered to be disseminated by us and these guidelines apply to the plan or agreement. The criteria outlined in this policy are consistent with OMB, Department of Commerce, NOAA, and Department of the Interior. FWS information quality guidelines. The Department of the Interior’s guidelines can be found at
As a final example, NMFS’ Instruction on Endangered Species Act Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan Guidance states at page 6.2 that “A focused scientific peer-review of the complete draft PDM plan is highly recommended and may be required under OMB’s guidelines for implementing the Information Quality Act.” https://reefshark.nmfs.noaa.gov/f/pds/publicsite/documents/procedures/02-110-16.pdf
In sum, the NAS/NRC cannot adequately perform its charge of advising EPA and the Services of what is the ‘best available data’ without considering the IQA and NMFS’ IQA Guidelines. We don’t know why NMFS didn’t let the NAS/NRC know about these crucial information quality requirements.
● NMFS’ and FWS’ joint presentation to the NAS/NRC entitled “Ecological Risk Assessments for Pesticides in the Context of the U.S. Endangered Species Act,” which doesn’t mention the IQA or IQA Guidelines are attached below.