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Landing Reports Indicate Violations in Alaska’s Restricted Fishing Area

Halibut Fisherman, Andrew Halverson, a resident of Washington, was fined $5,000 for the unlawful harvest of halibut. The halibut were harvested from the closed waters defined in the Sitka Sound Local Area Management Plan (LAMP).

An enforcement officer with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement initiated an investigation after he reviewed landing reports for the Sitka area.

“OLE personnel regularly review landing reports,” said Lt. Bob Marvelle, supervisory enforcement officer for the OLE Alaska Division. “Since we’re unable to inspect every offload and landing, we review the reports to ensure compliance and identify areas of concern that need to be addressed.”

Upon further investigation of the documents and log books, OLE identified that on Nov. 4, 2016, while fishing from a vessel larger than 35 feet, Halverson retained 130 pounds of halibut fished from approximately 4.3 nautical miles inside the Sitka LAMP closed area.

NOAA Fisheries implemented the Sitka Sound LAMP in 1999. It is intended to reduce competition for halibut in Sitka Sound by restricting commercial fishing boats and charter boats from halibut fishing inside the boundaries. This restriction allows personal-use fishermen and unguided sport fishermen greater opportunity to catch halibut in the waters near Sitka. Regulations implementing the LAMP are at 50 CFR 300.65, the boundaries are found in Figure 1.

“The Sitka Sound LAMP is intended to prevent localized overfishing of halibut,” said Nathan Lagerwey, OLE deputy special agent in charge for the Alaska Division. “It is important that user groups fishing inside the Sitka LAMP pay close attention to restrictions.”

OLE contacted Halverson in the process of the investigation. Halverson explained he was unaware of the boundaries and other fishing restrictions in the Sitka Sound area. OLE provided information about the LAMP and answered additional questions from the fisherman. Once the investigation concluded, OLE sent the findings to NOAA’s General Counsel Enforcement Section for review and penalties assessment.

“We conduct extensive outreach and compliance assistance to our Alaska fishing industry,” said Marvelle.

GCES issued a $5,000 Notice of Violation and Assessment. The settlement was reduced by $500.

“One of our primary goals is to ensure a level playing field to benefit honest, law abiding fishermen,” said Lagerwey, adding that if there are questions from the fishing community in Alaska, contact information for local field offices are provided online.

To report fishing violations or illegal activities related to marine resource laws call the OLE Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.

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Story by Ally Rogers, communications officer for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. To contact her, please call 301-427-8255 or email allyson.rogers@noaa.gov.

Published March 10, 2017.