Alaska's dynamic, often ice-covered seas are home to a remarkable diversity of life, crustaceans, fish, seals, sea lions, porpoises, whales, and more. Few places in the world offer such beauty and bounty. This region of nearly 1.5 million square miles includes waters in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Chukchi Sea, and Beaufort Sea.
Alaska produces more than half the fish caught in waters off the coast of the United States, with an average wholesale value of nearly $4.5 billion a year. Alaska's fisheries are among the best-managed, most sustainable in the world. Alaska resources provide jobs and a stable food supply for the nation, while supporting a traditional way of life for Alaska Native and local fishing communities.
Together, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office and Alaska Fisheries Science Center help ensure the sustainability of these marine resources for generations.
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Fishing StatusReduced to end overfishing.
About the Species
- According to the 2018 stock assessment, Pacific bluefin tuna are overfished and subject to overfishing.
- NOAA Fisheries first determined the Pacific bluefin tuna stock to be overfished in 2013. The 2018 assessment completed by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean found the stock is still overfished.
- That assessment estimated that in 2016 the spawning stock biomass was at 3.3 percent of the level it would be had the stock never been fished. That’s up from 3 percent in 2014.
- Pacific bluefin tuna have black or dark blue dorsal sides, with a grayish-green iridescence.
- Their bellies are dotted with silver or gray spots or bands.
- They have a series of small yellow fins, edged in black, running from the second dorsal fin to the tail.
- A distinguishing characteristic of Pacific bluefin is that the tips of the pectoral fins do not reach the front of the second dorsal fin.
- They have relatively small eyes compared to other species of tuna.
- Pacific bluefin tunas reach maturity at approximately 5 years of age and can live up to 26 years, although the average lifespan is about 15 years.
- Adults are approximately 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) long and weigh about 60 kilograms (130 pounds).
- The maximum reported length and weight for Pacific bluefin is 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length and 450 kilograms (990 pounds).
- Pacific bluefin tunas are predatory and mainly eat squids and fishes, such as sardines and anchovies, saury, herring, pompanos, mackerel, hake, other tunas, and occasionally red crabs and krill.
Where They Live
- Most of the U.S. catch of Pacific bluefin tuna is within about 100 nautical miles of the California coast.
Alaska's coastal communities depend on healthy marine resources to support commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism, and the Alaskan way of life. Our mission at NOAA Fisheries Alaska Regional Office is the science-based stewardship of Alaska’s marine resources and their habitats in the Gulf of Alaska, eastern Bering Sea, and Arctic oceans. We are responsible for supporting sustainable fisheries, recovering and conserving protected species, such as whales and seals, and promoting healthy ecosystems and resilient Alaska coastal communities.
Sport Halibut Fishing
Fishing Applications and Forms
Viewing Marine Mammals
Alaska is among the best destinations worldwide to view marine mammals, including several whale species, sea lions, and seals. These animals need time and space to eat, sleep, socialize, and care for their young. NOAA Fisheries helps ensure marine mammals are not being put at risk by promoting responsible wildlife viewing in Alaska.
Reporting Marine Mammals in Distress
The Marine Mammal Stranding Network is composed of government wildlife and fisheries agencies, veterinary clinics, Alaska Native organizations, and academic institutions who respond to or provide professional advice on handling strandings, and collect and compile data on strandings. If you see injured, entangled or dead whales, seals or sea lions in the water or on the beach, call the statewide 24-hour Stranding Hotline: (877) 925-7773.
Essential Fish Habitat
One of the greatest long-term threats to the viability of commercial and recreational fisheries is the continuing loss of marine, estuarine, and other aquatic habitats. We work to protect and conserve marine habitats that provide food, protection, and safe areas for spawning and rearing marine life. We also identify actions to encourage conservation and enhancement of essential fish habitat.
Subsistence Halibut Fishing
Our research supports sustainable management and conservation of Alaska marine species with economic and cultural benefits for the nation. Alaska waters support some of the most important commercial fisheries in the world; large and diverse populations of whales, seals, sea lions, and porpoises; and Alaska native hunting and fishing communities.
We study the health and size of marine animal populations and identify the key areas where these animals feed, breed, and grow. We monitor changes to Alaska ecosystems over time.
Alaska Research Surveys
Each year we conduct long-term field surveys from land, sea, and air using innovative technologies and methods to monitor the health of fish, shellfish, whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises and other marine life in Alaska. Over time we can detect trends in abundance and population health. We also monitor changes to habitats and the environment that can affect marine species.
Alaska Stock Assessments
A variety of data are input into computer models to estimate population size and trends for fish, crabs and marine mammals generating a stock assessment report. Research surveys provide biological, ecological and environmental data. Independent fishery observers collect information on commercial fisheries catches. We also compile socio-economic data on fishing communities.
Alaska Marine Mammal Research
Together with research partners we collect data from land, sea and air to learn more about whales, seals, and other marine mammals. We study the abundance and trends of these animals, along with their ecology and behavior. Our research results are used by resource managers and federal and tribal government partners to comply with U.S. laws to protect these species.
Ecosystem and Socio-Economic Research
Understanding the health and productivity of marine ecosystems is key to sustainable management. In the laboratory and in the field, our scientists monitor Alaska ecosystems to see how changes in the marine environment affect marine species.
Alaska Fisheries Observers
Trained observers collect information on fisheries catch, including species caught inadvertently (also known as bycatch). They also collect important biological data on fish and threatened and endangered species including Steller sea lions, killer whales, harbor porpoises, and seabirds such as the endangered short-tailed albatross. Scientists use observer-collected data for stock assessments and marine ecosystem research.
Alaska Habitat Research
The frigid waters of Alaska contain a remarkable number of diverse ocean habitats. Our research explores kelp forests, eelgrass meadows, deep-sea coral gardens, valleys and seamounts, the summits of the ocean. We study the places where Alaska marine species live.
Interviewee Date of Interview Location of Interview Apayu Moore 08/02/2018 Dillingham, AK Lindsay Layland 07/28/2018 Dillingham, AK
Pacific cod researcher. Knowledge of spawning aggregation processes provides valuable insight for fisheries investigations. Important information such as spawning location, duration, and seasonality require knowledge of the gonad developmental
The exact study location and location of pots fished for Pacific cod in 2002 and 2003. One of the research efforts funded by the Steller Sea Lion Research Initiative is a field study of localized depletion in Pacific cod.
Atka mackerel research study area. During the Atka mackerel mark-recapture research charters from 2002 to 2004, approximately 2,700 stomach samples were collected. These samples were analyzed in the Resource