• 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: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ram/subsistence/halibut.htm.


January 2007

Subsistence Halibut Survey Results

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 2003.

            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.


August 2006

Public Comment Sought on Subsistence Halibut Information Collection
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 patsy.bearden@noaa.gov.  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.

March 2006

ADF&G Subsistence Division Conducts Third Halibut Fishery Mail Survey

The Alaska 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 jim_fall@fishgame.state.ak.us or brian_davis@fishgame.state.ak.us.  In Southeast Alaska, please contact Mike Turek at (907) 465-3617 or e-mail mike_turek@fishgame.state.ak.us.

Questions about subsistence halibut fishing regulations, including how to obtain a SHARC, should be addressed to NMFS at 1-800-304-4846 (option #2).

December 2004
Council Tightens Rules on Customary Trade, Use of Charter Boats

            The North 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 customary trade.

            In 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.

            The 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.

            The first 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.

            At the 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.)

            The Sitka 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.”

            Bubba Cook, 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.

            The Council 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.

            The Council 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.

            In the 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.

            In the 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.

            In 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.

            The 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.

            Instead, 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.

            Council 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.”

October 2004
Survey Documents First Year of Subsistence Halibut Harvest

          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 http://www.subsistence.adfg.state.ak.us/TechPap/PublicReviewDraft.pdf .

           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 regulations.

           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 2005.                                         

August 2004
More Information on Halibut II

           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.

              Halibut II 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 and 3A.

               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 1-888-586-6822.

To see the Halibut II proposed rule in the Federal Register, go online to:
http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/prules/fr41447.pdf .

For general information about subsistence halibut fishing in Alaska, see the National Marine Fisheries Service webpage on the topic, http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ram/subsistence/halibut.htm.

November 2003
Results of October 2003 NPFMC Meeting

Final regulations governing Alaska's new subsistence halibut fishery may still be years in the making.

     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.

    The Council 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 retained.

     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. 

     Subsistence halibut 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 area.

     Regulations prohibit 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: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/frules/fr18145.pdf .

      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 of Low 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.


For 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: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/ram/subsistence/halibut.htm

Follow the below link to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council home page:




Follow the link below to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s April 2002 motion on subsistence halibut:     http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/current_issues/halibut_issues/HalSubFinal.pdf



Follow the link below to the federal Environmental Assessment on Subsistence Halibut:      http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/current_issues/halibut_issues/SubsistenceII.pdf


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(last updated 01/30/07)

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