The Hawaii longline fleet has reached the limit on the amount of bigeye tuna it can catch this year, prompting the feds to close the fishery in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean starting next Wednesday.

The limit, set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, is 3,502 metric tons. About a quarter of the 140-vessel fleet will still be able to go fish for another 500 tons of bigeye apiece in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, which is regulated by a different commission.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which manages the Hawaii longline fleet, said in a press release Wednesday that the closures are going to reduce the supply of Hawaii longline-caught bigeye tuna to the Honolulu fish auction. The longliners target the bigeye ahi for sashimi markets.

Bigeye tuna

Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet has hit its limit this year for bigeye tuna, pictured here.

Courtesy of NOAA

“From an economic perspective, each Hawaii longline vessel can be likened to a ‘mom and pop store” or similar small business,’ the release says. “Not being able to fish is like a store closing for the same amount of time, with disastrous effects on livelihoods.”

The council is pushing the National Marine Fisheries Service to change its rules to let the Hawaii longline fleet haul in more fish by assigning some of its quota to Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Earthjustice, representing three environmental groups, is challenging this in court, arguing that the move ignores international rules protecting the health of the fish stock.

The closure of the Hawaii longline bigeye fishery comes after the feds had to close the purse seine fishery in June when it hit its limit of 1,828 fishing days.

Read past Civil Beat coverage here.

About the Author