Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
March 2010

The Saltwater Sport Fish Charter Logbook
New Changes for 2010

By Dora Sigurdsson

Sportfish charter boat guides in Alaska are required to provide information on their clients’ catches to fisheries managers. The data from logbooks are compiled to show where fishing effort occurs, the extent of participation, and the species and numbers of fish kept and released by individual clients. This information is used for regulation and the development and management of fisheries, for project evaluation, and for formulation of department policies and priorities that reflect angler needs, concerns, and preferences. It also provides the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) with a tool to promote management of Alaska’s resources for sustained yield.

In February, 1998 the Board of Fish (BOF) adopted regulations (5 AAC 75.076) requiring logbooks for saltwater charter vessels statewide. Information on the amounts and locations of charter activity and actual participation and harvest by individual vessels and businesses was needed by the BOF for allocation and management of Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, rockfish Sebastes spp., and lingcod Ophiodon elongatus, and by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) for allocation of Pacific halibut Hippoglossus stenolepis. To meet these information needs ADF&G implemented a saltwater sport fishing charter vessel logbook program. The logbook program was intended to provide information on actual participation and harvest by individual vessels and businesses.

In 1999, the NPFMC was considering proposals to limit the guided sport halibut harvest. NPFMC endorsed a two-prong approach to resolve the perceived impact of increased guided charter halibut fishing. The first was establishment of guideline harvest limits (GHL) for International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) Areas 2C and 3A, and the second was a process to establish local area management plans for halibut fisheries in coastal communities.

Since 1998, the logbook design has undergone annual revisions, driven primarily by changes or improvements in the collection of halibut, lingcod and rockfish data through the logbook program. For various reasons, both technical and policy-based, information on halibut harvests was not collected from 2002 through 2005. In 2005 the Alaska Legislature adopted statute requiring annual licensing of all (freshwater and saltwater) sport fishing guides and businesses. In 2006 the logbook was redesigned to capture halibut information, angler license numbers and the harvest and release numbers by angler in an effort to improve reporting and facilitate evaluation of the quality of logbook data.

Since 2006, the saltwater logbook has remained consistent in design with very few changes to the format, layout and size. Additional information requests per trip have been added to assist ADF&G managers. From 2006 – 2009, a few of the changes include the collection of data from “comped” or nonpaying anglers, International Pacific Halibut (IPHC) area fished, angler’s first and last name and license number along with the angler signature if an angler kept halibut in 2C, and port or community where the fishing trip began.

Recent emphasis from ADF&G management staff and the NPFMC on more timely saltwater data spurred discussions on how to hasten logbook data availability. Currently, logbook data entry involves collecting logbook sheets from the guide, hand entering the logbook data into a logbook database, and editing the data. This process can take Sport Fish Research and Technical Services (RTS) staff from six to eight weeks from the time of receipt of a logbook page. Discussions included the possibility of an electronic submission option that would provide data to ADF&G and NPFMC staff in a timelier manner. Any option for a logbook change would have to include a design that is appealing and easy for the guide industry to use, such that they would perceive it as beneficial to a process that they already consider “burdensome.” Electronic reporting options were, at first, appealing to fulfill both management needs and halibut management needs for more timely information. Further discussions concluded that electronic reporting would still necessitate the use of a paper version of the logbook due to regulatory enforcement and trip recording requirements. Data would still need to be verified for errors, be entered accurately into a database, and be available for onsite inspection. There are currently no viable options for going “paperless,” and no perceived benefit to managers or the industry that would result from the process. The “paperless” approach would require a change in regulation for reporting requirements along with extensive research into the cost and technological issues of electronic reporting. The discussion for going “paperless” will continue however.


Upon further discussion and research, an alternative approach was considered. Division of Sport Fish programmers researched the option of developing a system that would electronically scan the image of a redesigned logbook data page. Scanned images would minimize data entry time but allow for data entry personnel to fix images flagged as unrecognizable, thus maintaining data accuracy and quality. This option is not any more “burdensome” to the industry and would likely make the weekly reporting requirement more palatable knowing that the data would be more immediately available.

Data entry for the 2010 Saltwater Logbook system will be done using software that allows us to extract hand written data from a scanned image of a form into actual data fields as if they had been entered by hand.

Essentially, each page that is received by RTS will be run through a high speed scanner where it will be transformed into an image file and then stored in a defined location. Once scanned, the images are run through a ‘recognition’ process in which the images are matched to a pre-defined template that applies rules to each data field on the form and then extracts the pertinent information.

After recognition, the batch is then run through a ‘verification’ process in which any data item that the system could not positively recognize is highlighted for staff review and possible operator confirmation. The actual scanned image is displayed as it is being verified so that staff can see exactly what was written on the form and make any change as needed. Data entry staff must then complete the verification process for each image before it can be exported to the database. Any image that cannot be verified can be skipped and revisited later and won’t hold up processing the other records.

Once verification is completed, an ‘Export’ command is initiated, which will stage the data for further processing on the database side. It is then added to the master logbook database as a final step, where it will be accessible to biologists, research analysts, etc.

In 2010, saltwater charter operators will see a new version of the saltwater logbooks that will collect the same trip information as in previous years. Along with the newer version of the logbook was the added benefit to decreasing the overall size from an 8 ½” x 14” to a 9’’ x 11” booklet.

If you have any questions or comments about the saltwater logbook program please contact Dora Sigurdsson at

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