Hawaii Commercial Fishing

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Hawaii’s commercial fishing industry has an estimated value of $100 million. The industry is centered on the longline fleet which targets primarily bigeye tuna and swordfish.

The Western Pacific Fishery Management Council is the quasi-governmental agency that oversees commercial fishing in Hawaii and the surrounding ocean.

Contents

The Fishery

Hawaii’s commercial fishing industry, with an estimated value of $100 million, is centered around its longline fleet of roughly 140 vessels.

Bigeye tuna is the most targeted species, which is predominantly sold at the Honolulu Fish Auction. Industry leaders say most of the tuna, known as ahi in Hawaii, is consumed in the islands, where residents and visitors alike enjoy fresh sashimi, sushi, poke bowls and tuna steaks.

The longliners operate under a quota-management system established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, an international treaty-based group that sets catch limits. For 2017, the annual catch limit was 3,138 tons of bigeye tuna for the Western and Central Pacific. The longliners have hit that limit months early for the past several years but have been able to access an additional 3,000 tons through financial agreements with three U.S. Pacific island territories — Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.

The Regulators

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, comprised of 16 members and several advisory committees, has more direct oversight of the commercial fishing industry. Eight members are nominated by the governors of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, and selected by the Secretary of Commerce. Four are designated state officials from each jurisdiction’s natural resource department, and four are designated federal officials from the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of State.

Wespac has jurisdiction over nearly 1.5 million square miles of ocean, roughly the same size as the continental United States. Managing this massive area to ensure the resources remain available for future generations is among the council’s primary objectives, which are spelled out in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Political and Management Issues

With millions of pounds of fish and other marine life harvested annually in the waters Wespac oversees, the council has faced increasing scrutiny since it was created in 1976 along with seven other regional councils.

The biggest critics have been environmental groups like Earthjustice who have successfully sued to force the Fisheries Service to change practices deemed harmful to endangered species. Officially, the council only advises NMFS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which falls under the Department of Commerce.

Wespac is steered by Executive Director Kitty Simonds, who has advocated for years to loosen federal protections in national monuments and elsewhere to help the commercial fishermen access more areas and catch more fish.

Hawaii Commercial Fishing
‘Devastation’ Discovered In Deep Sea From Industrial Fishing Cory Lum/Civil Beat

‘Devastation’ Discovered In Deep Sea From Industrial Fishing

But without a $2 million donation, it may be the last expedition for the Hawaii-based research submarines and support vessel that conducted the study.

The Odd Story Of How A NOAA Scientist Calculated A Giant Marlin’s Age NOAA

The Odd Story Of How A NOAA Scientist Calculated A Giant Marlin’s Age

A tiny ear structure that weighs less than a grain of rice held the secret to a 1,200-pound fish’s age.

How Wespac Is Twisting Words To Allow More Fishing Courtesy: Wespac

How Wespac Is Twisting Words To Allow More Fishing

Responding to a lawsuit and presidential proclamation, the Pacific fishery council is reconsidering what “non-commercial fishing” and “cultural fishing” should mean.

Why The Fishing Industry Wants More Say On Papahanaumokuakea NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

Why The Fishing Industry Wants More Say On Papahanaumokuakea

As federal officials sift through public comments on national monuments, supporters of Hawaii commercial fishermen say they merit special consideration.

535 Scientists Want Trump To Leave Hawaii’s Marine Monument Alone Cory Lum/Civil Beat

535 Scientists Want Trump To Leave Hawaii’s Marine Monument Alone

The group signed a letter emphasizing how protected reserves help the economy and biodiversity.

Trump’s Review Of National Monuments Panned In Public Comments James Watt

Trump’s Review Of National Monuments Panned In Public Comments

The government is accepting input on the reconsideration of protections at 29 monuments, including Papahanaumokuakea.

The Fight Over Papahanaumokuakea Just Escalated Courtesy: Wespac

The Fight Over Papahanaumokuakea Just Escalated

It’s not just Wespac that’s lobbying President Trump to undo marine monument protections in the Pacific.

Year Of The Tuna: A Quota Showdown Looms In 2017 Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Year Of The Tuna: A Quota Showdown Looms In 2017

Like many other countries, the U.S. longline fleet based almost entirely in Honolulu wants to catch more fish.

Wespac Still Pushing Obama To Lift Marine Monument’s Fishing Ban Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Wespac Still Pushing Obama To Lift Marine Monument’s Fishing Ban

The federal advisory body’s leaders want a five-year delay of the commercial fishing prohibition around Papahanaumokuakea.

AP: Fishermen Exploited In Hawaii Cory Lum/Civil Beat

AP: Fishermen Exploited In Hawaii

An Associated Press investigation found that most fishermen on commercial vessels that dock at Hawaii piers are undocumented, poorly paid foreign workers.
War Of Words Escalates As Monument Decision Nears Courtesy: Expand PNMN

War Of Words Escalates As Monument Decision Nears

Supporters of expanding Papahanaumokuakea unveil an ad countering one by opponents of the proposal for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The Limit’s No Limit: US Tuna Fleet Shells Out Cash To Keep Fishing Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Limit’s No Limit: US Tuna Fleet Shells Out Cash To Keep Fishing

Since hitting their bigeye quota in August, Hawaii longliners have made three deals to pay other territories for some of their unused quotas.