September 23, 2004
The study is an important aspect of the new federal regulations that were created to allow monitoring and management of the fishery. The regulatory program affects residents of 117 rural communities or members of 123 Alaska Native tribes with traditional uses of halibut. The regulations require subsistence fishers to obtain a Subsistence Halibut Registration Certificate (SHARC) from NMFS before fishing.
To collect harvest and other information, a one-page survey and two follow-up mailings were sent to 11,635 SHARC holders in early 2004. Household visits supplemented the mailings in selected communities. In total, 7,593 or 65.3 percent of the surveys were returned. Participation in the survey was voluntary.
According to the study findings, an estimated 4,935 individuals subsistence fished for halibut in Alaska in 2003. The estimated subsistence halibut harvest totaled 43,841 fish for 1,039,808 pounds net weight ("net weight" is 75% of "round" or live weight). Of this total, 751,659 pounds or 72.3 percent were harvested using longlines or skates, 288,153 pounds or 27.7 percent were harvested with rod and reel or handline gear. Subsistence fishers also harvested an estimated 14,855 rockfish and 3,299 lingcod in 2003 while fishing for halibut.
The largest subsistence halibut harvest occurred in Southeast Alaska with a harvest of 627,476 pounds net weight for 60.3 percent of the statewide total. Harvest pounds and percentages in other areas are as follows: Southcentral Alaska at 278,745 pounds for 26.8 percent; East Bering Sea Coast at 54,267 pounds for 5.2 percent; Alaska Peninsula at 27,979 pounds for 2.7 percent; Pribilof Islands at 23,768 pounds for 2.3 percent; East Aleutian Islands at 20,717 pounds for 2.0 percent; Central Bering Sea at 4,385 pounds for 0.4 percent; and Western Aleutian Islands at 2,471 pounds for 0.2 percent.
Adding the findings of the Division of Subsistence study to preliminary data from the International Pacific Halibut Commission results, indicate 82.482 million pounds (net weight) of halibut was taken through commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries in Alaska in 2003. The subsistence harvest accounted for 1.3 percent of this total.
The "Subsistence Harvests of Pacific Halibut in Alaska, 2003" project is the first study to collect information directly from halibut harvesters to estimate the total subsistence halibut harvest in Alaska for a single year under the new subsistence halibut regulations and SHARC requirement. Therefore, only limited comparisons can be made with harvest estimates for previous years. However, the estimate of about one million pounds of halibut harvested in the Alaska subsistence fishery is consistent with projected harvests based on earlier community harvest studies conducted by the Division of Subsistence. The report concludes that the study provided reliable estimates of subsistence harvests of halibut in Alaska for 2003. It recommends that the research be continued for at least two more years in order to develop a time series for assessment of trends in the fishery and to further assess the study results for 2003.
More information about the study and copies of the report may be obtained by visiting the Division of Subsistence website at www.subsistence.adfg.state.ak.us or by calling the Division of Subsistence of ADF&G in Anchorage (907) 267-2353 or Juneau (907) 465-4147.
Questions about subsistence
halibut fishing regulations, including how to obtain a SHARC,
should be addressed to the NMFS at 1-800-304-4846 (option #2)
or visit their web site at www.fakr.noaa.gov/ram/subsistence/halibut.htm.
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