Halibut Fishing License
A DMR Halibut Fishing License is required to commercially fish for halibut. This license is new for the 2023 fishing year and replaces the halibut endorsement on the Commercial Fishing License. Those who previously purchased a Commercial Fishing License for the sole purpose of obtaining a halibut endorsement should now purchase the new Halibut Fishing License instead. The new Halibut Fishing License is open access, meaning there are no restrictions to obtain the license based on past participation or landings history.
Reporting Requirement for Halibut Fishing License Holders
DMR’s reporting requirements were recently modified to require those who hold a halibut fishing license to submit weekly trip-level catch reports during the halibut season (May 18-June 13). In addition, the fishery has moved to electronic harvester reporting. The reporting week for halibut begins on Sunday at 12:01am and ends Saturday at midnight. Trip level catch reports must be submitted weekly by midnight on Monday, two days after the end of each report week. This means that between May 18 and June 13, halibut fishing license holders will need to submit reports on a trip-level basis for five weeks.
Find a copy of the newly adopted halibut reporting regulations (PDF).
The FAQ document below describes the harvester reporting week, when harvesters have to report, and how to report electronically.
PDF files may require the free Adobe Reader (download here) to view or print.
Frequently Asked Questions: Halibut Harvester Reporting
Why was this change made?
Weekly trip level reporting will improve the timeliness of halibut catch reports and provide DMR with in-season landings information. Given the halibut season is less than a month, monthly reporting has resulted in a lack of in-season landings information, making management of the fishery to the state waters sub-ACL challenging. As a reminder, there are severe penalties if halibut landings exceed the Acceptable Biological Catch limit, including a zero-possession limit for all federal permit holders (such as lobster). In addition, monthly reporting has contributed to a pattern of late reporting in the halibut fishery, where some fishermen who only use their commercial fishing license for halibut have little incentive to report until they renew their license. This means that DMR doesn’t receive a complete picture of catch until just before the start of the next fishing season, often resulting in emergency rulemaking if changes are needed. This precludes the collection of public comment ahead of a regulation change.
Who does this requirement apply to?
The requirement for weekly electronic reporting applies to commercial harvesters who hold a halibut fishing license.
When do I need to report?
The reporting week for halibut begins on Sunday at 12:01 a.m. and ends Saturday at midnight. Weekly trip level catch reports must be submitted by midnight on Monday, two days after the end of each report week. In 2023, the halibut season begins on Thursday, May 18th and ends on Tuesday, June 13th. This means that in 2023, halibut fishing license holders will need to submit weekly catch reports for five weeks:
- Submit report(s) by Monday, May 22 for fishing activity during May 18-20
- Submit report(s) by Monday, May 29 for fishing activity during May 21-27
- Submit report(s) by Monday, June 5 for fishing activity during May 28-June 3
- Submit report(s) by Monday, June 12 for fishing activity during June 4-10
- Submit report(s) by Monday, June 19 for fishing activity during June 11-13
Do I have to report if I did not fish that week?
If you did not go fishing during the reporting week you are required to submit a Did Not Fish Report.
I went fishing for halibut, but I didn’t land any. Do I still have to report?
Yes, if you went fishing for halibut during the reporting week but didn’t land any halibut, you are still required to submit a trip-level catch report and indicate that no fish were landed.
Do I need to report sublegal (discarded) halibut?
Yes. Reporting sublegal halibut is crucial for providing data on the size range of halibut encountered by the fishery.
Did the data elements in the catch report change?
There were no changes made to the data elements in the halibut catch report. A list of the information required in a halibut catch report can be found in the newly adopted rulemaking package (PDF).
What happens if I hold both a Maine halibut fishing license and a federal Northeast multispecies permit?
The VESL reporting app provides a way for harvesters with both a state halibut fishing license and federal Northeast multispecies license to fulfill both their state and federal reporting requirements with one report. DMR strongly recommends the use of this electronic reporting option as it is the easiest for those who are dual-permitted to report during Maine’s halibut season.
The reporting requirement in Chapter 8 applies to those who hold a Maine halibut fishing license and it requires the harvester to report landings from Maine’s territorial waters during the Maine halibut season (May 18-June 13). Therefore, if a harvester chooses not to use VESL, there are several reporting situations which could occur during the state halibut season (May 18- June 13).
- If you harvest halibut exclusively in federal waters but land halibut in Maine, you will need to submit a positive catch report to NOAA (eVTR) and submit a negative report to DMR.
- If you harvest halibut in state waters, you will need to submit a positive catch report to both NOAA and Maine.
- If you did not fish for halibut, you will need to submit a Did Not Fish Report to DMR and nothing needs to be reported to NOAA.
Again, these reporting requirements can be accomplished in one-step via VESL. Following the end of the Maine halibut season, there are no reporting requirements associated with the Maine halibut fishing license. As a reminder, there is already a requirement for those who hold federal Northeast multispecies permit to report electronically within 48 hours of the end of a trip.
How do I report electronically?
There are several ways to report electronically to DMR including VESL (the new harvester reporting app) and Maine LEEDs.
Information on VESL:
- Instructions on how to access the VESL app (PDF)
- Instructions on how to submit a positive halibut report (state harvesters) (PDF)
- Instructions on how to submit a positive halibut report (federal Northeast multispecies permit holders) (PDF)
- Instructions on how to submit a did not fish report (PDF)
Information on LEEDs
Whom do I contact if I have questions?
For questions about harvester reporting, including how to report electronically, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 207.633.9500 (select Option 2 for Landings and then Option 4 for electronic reporting help)
For questions about the management of halibut, including state and federal regulations, contact Megan Ware at email@example.com or 207.446.0932
Maine Halibut Fishery Information
- January 12, 2022 Halibut Industry Meeting Presentation (PDF file, 5.2MB)
- Maine Commercial and Recreational Halibut Rules and Compliance Guide for 2023 (PDF file, 217 kb)
- Maine halibut regulations (See Chapter 34.07)
- Order commercial or recreational halibut tags