For more information about subsistence halibut
fishing in Alaska, a
Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate application, or information
on Community, Ceremonial, and Educational permits see the National
Marine Fisheries Service webpage at:
NEWS ABOUT ALASKA'S SUBSISTENCE HALIBUT FISHERY
Subsistence Halibut Survey
results are in, and a report from the Alaska Department of Fish and
Game Subsistence Division estimates the statewide subsistence harvest
of halibut in 2005 at 1.18 million pounds. This number is very
similar to the 2004 estimate of 1.19 million pounds. Subsistence
harvests represented about 1.5% of the total halibut removals in
Alaska in 2005.
At the end of 2005, 14,306 individuals had subsistence
halibut permits, up four percent from the end of 2004. The study
found an estimated 5,621 individuals subsistence fished for halibut in
2005, compared to 5,984 individuals in 2004 and 4,942 individuals in
2003. The estimated subsistence halibut harvest in 2005 was 55,875
fish or 1,178,222 pounds net weight. The 2004 estimate was that
52,412 fish, or 1,193,162 pounds were harvested.
Of the total subsistence halibut harvest in 2005, 70
percent was harvested with longlines and 30 percent was harvested with
hand-operated gear. This is a decrease in the percentage harvested
using longlines compared to 2004, when 74 percent was harvested with
longlines and 26 percent was harvested with hand-operated gear. Of
those using longline gear in 2005, 42 percent usually fished with 30
hooks, the maximum number allowed in most areas.
An estimated 12,395 rockfish and 2,355 lingcod were caught
while subsistence halibut fishing in 2005. This is less than the
reported harvest of 19,001 rockfish and 4,407 lingcod for 2004.
The largest halibut subsistence harvest in 2005 occurred
in Southeast Alaska, where 51 percent of the statewide total was
caught. Southcentral Alaska accounted for 36 percent of the harvest,
while the western areas of the state all had comparatively small
harvests. The proportion of the statewide subsistence halibut harvest
occurring in Southeast Alaska declined in 2005, down from 57% in 2004
and 60% in 2003. Correspondingly, the portion occurring in
South-central Alaska increased in 2005, up from 34% in 2004 and 27% in
The report’s authors recommend that research be continued
for two more years, so that five years of data under the current set
of regulations governing gear, participation requirements, and daily
harvest limits can be evaluated. For more information or a copy of
the report, visit
http://www.subsistence.adfg.state.ak.us/ and click on
Subsistence Harvests of Pacific Halibut in Alaska, 2005.
Public Comment Sought on Subsistence Halibut Information
The Department of Commerce has invited the public to comment on two
aspects of Alaska’s subsistence halibut fishery; the registration
requirement for the fishery and the requirement for gear to be
marked. The fishery regulations currently require participants to
register prior to participating in the fishery and also require the
marking of certain types of gear used in the fishery. According to
the Department of Commerce, the registration requirement is intended
to allow qualified persons to practice the customary and traditional
harvest of halibut for food. The gear marking requirement aids in
enforcement and in actions related to gear damage or loss.
Comments must be submitted on or before September 5, 2006
and should be directed to Diana Hynek, Departmental Paperwork
Clearance Officer, Department of Commerce, Room 6625, 14th and
Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20230 (or via e-mail to
dHynek@doc.gov). Requests for additional information
should be directed to Patsy Bearden, (907) 586-7008 or
firstname.lastname@example.org. The agency is specifically interested
in comments on whether the collection of information is necessary,
whether the information has practical utility, ways to enhance the
quality, utility, or clarity of the information, and ways to
minimize the burden on respondents.
ADF&G Subsistence Division Conducts Third Halibut Fishery Mail
Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), Division of Subsistence, has mailed
a one-page survey form to everyone who registered and received a
Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate (SHARC) from the National
Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Survey recipients will be asked
to record whether they subsistence fished for halibut in 2005 and how
many halibut they harvested, and to return the form to ADF&G.
To ensure future subsistence halibut fishery decisions are based on
reliable information, everyone who receives the survey is encouraged
to take a few minutes to fill it out and return it to ADF&G. Accurate
harvest information is essential for effective management and for
providing future subsistence fishing opportunities. The study findings
will be summarized at a community level and presented in a final
written report available to the public in late 2006.
This is the third year of an ongoing project to estimate
subsistence halibut harvests in Alaska. Results of the research
pertaining to 2003 and 2004 subsistence halibut harvests are available
at the Division of Subsistence website at
www.subsistence.adfg.state.ak.us , under “Publications.”
Questions about the survey should be addressed to Jim Fall or Brian
Davis of ADF&G's Division of Subsistence at (907) 267-2353 or e-mail
email@example.com. In Southeast Alaska, please
contact Mike Turek at (907) 465-3617 or e-mail
Questions about subsistence halibut fishing regulations, including
how to obtain a SHARC, should be addressed to NMFS at 1-800-304-4846
Rules on Customary Trade, Use of Charter Boats
Pacific Fishery Management Council on Dec. 11 tightened subsistence
halibut fishing regulations, placing new statewide rules on numbers of
fish in possession, use of charter boats and exchange of cash known as
addition, the Council established new limits on fishing in the Sitka
Sound area and Kodiak road zone and Chiniak Bay, added the Prince of
Wales Island community of Naukati to communities eligible for
subsistence halibut fishing and allowed fishing in non-subsistence use
areas by holders of special permits.
changes, the second set of revisions on the original subsistence halibut
regulations that became effective in May 2003, are expected to become
law by January 2006.
set of revisions approved by the Council – including ones that would
establish a vessel limit of 30 hooks and 20 fish per day in Southeast
Alaska – are expected to be on the books by spring 2005.
urging of tribal representatives, the Council voted to eliminate a $400
limit on “customary trade.” Instead, the Council adopted language
limiting exchange of cash to compensation for “actual trip expenses for
ice, bait, food and fuel directly related to the harvest of subsistence
halibut.” The Council also limited customary trade to between members of
the same rural community and between members of Alaska tribes.
(Fishermen who register to participate in the fishery as members of an
eligible tribe can exchange their fish through customary trade with
members of a rural, eligible community if the fishermen are members of
of the same rural community as those receiving the fish.)
tribe’s Mike Miller, a member of the Council’s Alaska Native Subsistence
Halibut Working Group testified that the intent of the $400 limit was
misinterpreted by fishermen. “A lot of people just got confused. No
matter how you explained it, people just saw it as a way to make that
much money. They saw it as a target.”
a regulations specialist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said
the change represents an improved definition of customary trade. “It
informs the public on what they can and can’t do, instead of a $400
limit. This isn’t ideal, but it gets us closer.” Under the change,
subsistence users might be asked to provide enforcement officers with
receipts showing that cash received was used to pay for trip expenses.
Recognizing that subsistence limits have been established on a
per-fishermen and a per-vessel basis, the Council adopted a subsistence
halibut possession limit of one daily limit.
defined charter vessels as ones licensed or registered as such by Alaska
Department of Fish and Game, and restricted use of such vessels for
subsistence halibut fishing to the owner of record and the owner’s
immediate family. It also prohibited subsistence fishing while clients
are on board and transfer of subsistence halibut to clients.
allowed fishing in non-subsistence use areas by holders of ceremonial
and educational permits. Coastal tribes qualify for the permits.
Non-subsistence use areas include Valdez Arm, around Ketchikan and
Juneau, and most of Cook Inlet.
Sitka LAMP area, new restrictions between June 1and Aug. 31 will include
a 15-hook per vessel limit, a prohibition on power hauling, and a vessel
catch limit of five halibut per day. From Sept. 1 though May 31,
subsistence fishermen in the LAMP will be limited to 10 halibut per
vessel per day.
Kodiak road zone and Chiniak Bay, fishermen will be limited to 60 hooks
per vessel, provided two eligible fishermen are on board. A community
harvest program will be established to allow eligible tribal members to
fish with additional gear.
approving the appeal for eligibility from the community of Naukati, the
Council rejected a similar appeal from an individual residing at Port
Tongass Village, south of Ketchikan. The state Board of Fish had
endorsed eligibility for Port Tongass Village, but the Council rejected
the claim, saying its model for eligibility was based on communities
rather than individuals.
Advisory Panel to the Council recommended extending a 15-hook limit
throughout regulatory area 2C between June and August to address
concerns raised by commercial fishermen about increased gear and
harvests in that area, but the Council declined to do so. Tribal members
testified that such a limitation would invite abuse and untruthful
reporting of halibut catches.
the Council formalized its intent to entertain further subsistence
proposals in the fall of 2006, after two more years of harvest data have
been collected. This will allow time to gain additional information on
trends in subsistence halibut gear, harvest and fishing effort, and
consideration of other options for regulatory revisions, Council member
Arne Fuglvog said.
member Hazel Nelson said the group’s decision representing a balancing
of views between commercial and tribal subsistence fishermen testifying
at the meeting. “The Council has been patient with the way it deals with
subsistence uses. The different users have come to agreement to the
degree as best they can.”
Survey Documents First Year of Subsistence
A harvest survey by the State of Alaska
estimates that about 5,000 fishermen caught more than 1 million pounds
of halibut in the first year of the recognized subsistence fishery.
The subsistence harvest represented 1.3
percent of the total poundage of halibut taken in Alaska in 2003 and
one-seventh of the estimated sportfish catch.
Fewer than half of the 11,625 Alaskans
who received subsistence halibut permits fished in 2003. Nearly
three-quarters of halibut fishermen fished with setlines; 28 percent
used handlines or rod and reel. Sixty percent of the catch came from
Southeast Alaska; 23 percent came from Cook Inlet, Kodiak and Prince
William Sound. The average halibut harvested weighed 24 pounds.
“I think we can be confident that we’ve
come up with a reasonable estimate for harvest of halibut and for
lingcod,” state Division of Subsistence researcher Jim Fall testified at
the Oct. 6 meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. To
see a copy of the report, contact UFA’s subsistence outreach office or,
on the Internet, go to
Previous state estimates of subsistence
halibut harvest ranged from 400,000 to 1 million pounds.
The first recognized subsistence halibut
fishery in Alaska started May 15, 2003, with gear and bag limits
significantly increased from halibut sport fish and personal use
Subsistence advocates testifying at the
Council meeting said the survey shows the subsistence harvest remains
small under the expanded regulations. But pointing to survey results
from Southeast showing a relatively high harvest from that region and
proportionately higher use of setline gear, commercial fishermen
expressed concern that the new regulations have increased effort and
harvest. Some also expressed concerns about the accuracy of the harvest
estimate and called for mandatory harvest reporting.
In Southeast, 86 percent of subsistence
fishermen used setline gear, the highest percentage among fishing
regions in the state, with the exception of area 4D, a region in the
western Bering Sea.
Rural coastal residents and members of
coastal tribes are eligible to participate in the fishery. Kodiak and
Sitka, the largest communities eligible to participate in the fishery,
accounted for almost half of the harvest by rural fishermen. The Sitka,
Hoonah and Central Council of Tlingit Haida tribes recorded the highest
harvest among tribes.
The survey asked specifically where
fishermen caught their halibut, and how many lingcod and rockfish they
harvested. Almost 15,000 rockfish were harvested, 67 percent of that
catch coming in Southeast. Fishermen hooked 3,300 lingcod, half of them
caught in Southeast.
Of fishermen using setline gear, more
than 40 percent reported using 30 hooks, the regulatory limit; 20
percent used lines with 20 hooks. Twenty-two percent of respondents said
they also fished under sportfish regulations in 2003.
Working under a contract for the National
Marine Fisheries Service, the state Division of Subsistence sent the
voluntary, mailed survey to 11,635 Alaskans who had registered to fish
in 2003. Sixty-five percent of surveys were returned.
The survey will be continued in 2004 and
More Information on
The proposed rule (Halibut II), recommended by the North Pacific Fishery
Management Council last October and published in July, may be in place
by the 2005 fishing season. It would amend regulations in place since
the fishery started May 15, 2003.
In Southeast Alaska,
Halibut II would limit subsistence harvest to 20 halibut per vessel
daily and limit gear to 30 hooks per vessel. Current regulations allow
each qualified fisherman to take 20 halibut per day and use 30
hooks. The restriction is aimed at concerns that halibut fishing effort
has increased in the region.
establishes a community harvest permit that would allow up to three
individuals to fish for tribes or communities in Southeast under
regulations more liberal than the proposed restrictions. The proposal
also includes provisions to allow Alaska tribes to harvest up to 25
halibut for ceremonial or educational purposes in regulatory areas 2C
In other areas of the
state, Halibut II would eliminate gear restrictions for
subsistence halibut fishing in the Bering Sea, expand by 29 percent the
area of a no-fishing zone in Cook Inlet, and prohibit longline fishing
in an area south of Low Island near Sitka.
For more information, contact UFA Subsistence Outreach coordinator toll-free at
To see the
Halibut II proposed rule
in the Federal Register, go online to:
information about subsistence halibut fishing in Alaska, see the
National Marine Fisheries Service webpage on the topic,
Results of October 2003 NPFMC Meeting
governing Alaska's new subsistence halibut fishery may still be years in
At its October 2003
meeting, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council agreed to again
reconsider regulations for the fishery, following adoption of regional
modifications (Halibut II). Public comment on regional modifications, in the form of
a proposed rule, are due Aug. 9. Those changes are expected to be in
place by the 2005 fishing season.
developed initial regulations for the fishery that started May 15, 2003. At
its October 2003 meeting, the Council turned down requests by Ninilchik and
neighboring Happy Valley to be included in eligibility for subsistence
halibut, and removed from the proposed regional modifications gear
and bag limits in some fishing districts.
It deferred questions
about enforceability of cash sales restrictions, exceptions to a
prohibition on fishing in identified non-subsistence areas, and imposing
subsistence halibut possession limits. Those topics will be reconsidered
at a Council meeting set for Sitka beginning Oct. 4, 2004.
Ninilchik is eligible for
federal subsistence uses under ANILCA provisions, but the development of
the subsistence halibut rule relied on state criteria which puts
the Cook Inlet village in a non-subsistence area. The Council reaffirmed
its use of state eligibility criteria, and adopted the state Board of
Fish appeals process for other communities seeking inclusion.
In revising the regional
modifications, the Council took out specific gear and bag limits for
Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound and Kodiak Road Zone, but kept a
proposal to shift south the area closed to fishing in Cook Inlet. The
Council also removed previously proposed gear and bag limits in Sitka
Sound, while keeping a proposed longline closure south of Low Island.
Area-specific gear and bag limits for area 2C (Southeast Alaska) were
Part of the council's
reasoning for dropping gear and bag limits was a potential conflict with
state subsistence regulations in the Gulf of Alaska, and the Council
expressed its intent to revisit those area-specific limits at the
October 2004 meeting, in conjunction with developing a community harvest
program in area 3A.
The enforcement question
revolves around a $400 limit in cash that subsistence halibut fishermen can
receive for fishing for others. Federal enforcement officials say gross
violations of the limit can be prosecuted but incremental transactions
that exceed the cap are more difficult to track in the absence of cash reporting requirements.
Alaska's first subsistence
halibut fishery started May 15, 2003, when certificates to participate
were mailed. Through Aug. 2, 2004, 13,395 permits have been issued.
The fishery is open to
Alaskans who have customary and traditional uses of halibut, including
residents of 117 rural coastal communities and members of 120 coastal tribes. The
fishery allows up to 30
hooks per fisherman, and a daily bag limit of 20 halibut per fisherman.
Qualified fishermen must
possess a registration certificate, available from the National Marine
Fisheries Service, when fishing. To obtain an application for a
certificate, phone 1-800-304-4846, extension #2 or go to
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ram/subsistence/halibut.htm and follow the
links to Individual Applications and Tribal Applications.
Allowable gear includes longline, handline, rod
and reel, spear, jigging and hand-troll gear. The proposed rule also
allows each qualified fisherman to receive up to $400 annually as
reimbursement of expenses for fishing for others. Sales and solicitation
to sell are prohibited. In practical terms, individual fishermen are
permitted to give away their catch and receive up to $400 per year from
recipients who offer them cash to defray expenses.
fishing is prohibited in non-subsistence areas around
Anchorage, Ketchikan, Juneau and Valdez. Qualified fishermen may fish in
any area of the state outside of non-subsistence areas.
Tribal members who
qualify for the fishery but reside in non-qualifying Alaska communities
or outside Alaska can fish only in fishing districts in their tribal
subsistence halibut fishermen "to cause subsistence halibut to be sold,
bartered or otherwise to enter commerce or solicit exchange of
subsistence halibut for commercial purposes." To see a copy of the regulations published in
the Federal Register, including a list of qualifying communities and
tribes, go to:
Regional modifications will be considered by Secretary of Commerce
as a “trailing amendment” to the proposed rule on statewide provisions.
They are expected to be forwarded to the Secretary before summer 2004. Upon approval by the Secretary, the modifications will replace
statewide regulations in regions specifically addressed.
Following action taken at
the October 2003 meeting, proposed regional
modifications are, in the following regulatory areas:
4C, 4D and 4E (Bering Sea): Eliminate gear
restrictions, allow retention of legal-size halibut for subsistence
use by residents of qualifying Area 4 communities while CDQ fishing
on their own vessels;
3A, 3B, 4A and 4B (Central Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian
Islands): Allow stacking of a maximum of three times the number of
hooks on a single unit of gear per trip, provided that the
subsistence users are on the vessel;
3A, Cook Inlet: Lower the southern
boundary of the non-subsistence area to a line extending west from a
point near Seldovia (59*30.40’N);
2C (Southeast Alaska) excluding the Sitka Sound LAMP
area: Establish a 30-hook per vessel limit, set a daily bag
limit of 20 halibut per person with a maximum of 20 halibut per
vessel, prohibit stacking;
2C, Sitka Sound LAMP area: Prohibit longline fishing four nautical miles south
Island (inside the LAMP area).
A ceremonial, cultural or
educational harvest permit system would be implemented for Alaska Native
tribes eligible for subsistence halibut to conduct cultural or
educational camps and for ceremonial purposes. The permit would be
limited to a harvest of 25 fish.
more information on the subsistence halibut fishery, including a list of
subsistence halibut permit holders and maps of non-subsistence fishing
areas, go to the National Marine
Fishery Service subsistence halibut webpage at:
the below link to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council home
the link below to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s April 2002 motion on subsistence halibut:
the link below to the federal Environmental Assessment on Subsistence