The Case of the Eleven-Inch Fish: A Study in Administrative Discretion

  • Don Jaccard
Keywords: administrative discretion, public administrators, fishing, federal fisheries laws, policy interpretation, legislative intent, politics/administration dichotomy, selective enforcement


The complex, yet vague nature, of legislation being generated by lawmakers in Washington, DC requires that public administrators be afforded administrative discretion in carrying out their respective duties. It is no longer possible for policymakers to be fully informed regarding the multitude of variables that exist in the offshore fishing environment, nor is it possible to articulate that spectrum of variables in codified laws and regulations. The academic debate between controlling the exercise of administrative discretion on the one hand and extending the leash of judgment on the other has been around as long as the profession of public administration. In the case of the eleven-inch fish (the fish is one inch shy of being a legal catch), the public administrator on the scene of the infraction has a choice to make. The administrator can choose to overlook the incident, issue a warning, or issue a $100 notice of violation and seize the fish. I know which alternative I chose. The question is, which alternative would you choose?

Author Biography

Don Jaccard
Don Jaccard is a lieutenant commander in the United States Coast Guard and a second year candidate for a Master's of Public Administration at The George Washington University. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Law and Public Policy from the University of Maryland-University College.
Field Notes