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Human Dimensions Analysis of Hawaii's Ika-Shibi Fishery

The objectives of this project is to provide fishery managers and policy makers with information needed to optimally manage Hawaii's ika-shibi fishery and associated resources. Using a combination of research methods and analyses, project researchers will examine the historic and contemporary aspects of the ika-shibi fishery (occurring primarily off of Hawaii Island) and describe ways in which fishery participants adapt to an evolving regime. More specifically, project researchers will:

(1) describe how the fishery is configured in social and economic terms,
(2) identify and analyze factors that have influenced change in rates of participation and production over time,
(3) describe and explain how and why participants may be part of, and/or have reacted to such changes.

Ika-Shibi Fishery
The ika-shibi (squid-tuna) style of fishing was developed in Hawaii during the 1920's by Okinawan immigrant squid fishermen seeking to catch tuna feeding on their ika quarry. Though rates of participation varied over the early decades of the fishery, efficiency of effort increased in conjunction with advances in vessel, engine, and marine electronics technologies, and with evolving technique. The fishery grew slowly around Hilo (east coast of Hawaii Island) during the 1960s and has become popular on the Kona side (west coast of Hawaii Island) only during the last decade.

Ika-shibi is a nighttime fishery. A parachute-type sea anchor is used to keep the vessel in a relatively stable and slow drift. Underwater and above-water lights attract squid and various baitfish to the vessel. Squid is the preferred bait, though small baitfish such as mackerel scad are also used on occasion. Scad often initiates a night's fishing until squid are caught (Rodgers 1987). Palu (often anchovy or sardine) is dispersed as an attractant in the water column during the course of the operation. Three or four long braided polypropylene lines are equipped with strong leaders, baited circle hooks, and lead-filled tubular weights, and cleated at staggered depths for fishing between 15 and 35 meters. A breakaway line enables the fish to run with the bait before snapping and setting the hook. Once the hook is set, the fish is hauled to the boat by hand on the main line.

Few vessels are exclusively devoted to ika-shibi, and most captains will also use trolling and other methods over the course of the year (Itano 2003). Ika-shibi is particularly popular and productive around the Big Island, and especially so from about May to October, with peak season usually occurring during mid-summer. Activity between November and December is notably more limited, followed by a lull until spring (Severance 2003). The Hilo, Pohoiki, and Honokahau areas of Hawaii Island are particularly well-known points of departure and arrival for ika-shibi vessels. Long-term and more immediate knowledge of the resource, supportive ecosystem, and market potential is typically shared among groups of participants.

As for all forms of fishing in the Islands, topographic, bathymetric, or artificial features that attract baitfish and hence larger predators are preferred areas of ika-shibi activity. Shibi (ahi or yellowfin) and bigeye (po'o nui) are preferred targets, though albacore (tombo) is also taken, and few mature fish of any edible type are released. Yellowfin is most frequently harvested by this method.

Project Goals, Objectives and Methods
(1) Compile, analyze, and document participation (license), landings, and ex-vessel value data for the specific ika-shibi gear type (as possible) for all available reporting years for the statistical areas of interest along the Kona, Ka'u, Puna, and Hilo District coastlines;

(2) Compile, review, and synthesize all secondary source information relevant to understanding and describing important changes in the ika-shibi fishery over time, with particular emphasis on the last decade;

(3) Contact island fisheries managers and others highly knowledgeable of the ika-shibi fishery in order to identify important trends in and factors affecting the fishery, to aid in establishing rapport with local fish dealers and distributors, and to identify an initial group of seasoned fishery participants with whom to interact for purposes of the research;

(4) Use social network methods to systematically expand the sample of seasoned ika-shibi fishery participants for subsequent interviewing, and to document patterns of familial (ohana), organizational (hui), and community relationships to and involvement in the fishery;

(5) Conduct interviews with seasoned participants and local fish dealers to identify important trends in fishery production, factors affecting operational success and failure, and ways in which participants have adapted or failed to adapt to those trends and factors;

(6) Use the resulting information to develop narrative description of how the fishery is configured in social, economic, and spatial terms; to report on historic and especially recent trends and changes in the fishery; and to describe and explain the reactions of fishing families, huis, communities, and dealers/distributors to those trends and changes; and

(7) Supplement narrative description with maps depicting: ika-shibi fishing patterns; fleet proximities; important bathymetric, topographic, and artificial features (at an appropriate level of resolution); patterns of product distribution; and patterns of fishery participant residence.

Funding for this 1-year project to be awarded in mid 2004.

Literature cited:
• Itano, David. 2003. Personal Communication. Director, PFRP Tuna Tagging Program. Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research. University of Hawaii at Manoa. Honolulu.
• Rodgers, Sylvia. 1987. Description of the ika-shibi technique. In: Fishing Hawaii Style, Volume 2. Jim Rizzuto. Published by Hawaii Fishing News. Honolulu.
• Severance, Craig. 2003. Personal Communication. Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Hilo.


Principal Investigators:
Dr. Edward Glazier
Impact Assessment, Inc.
2166 Avenida de la Playa, Ste. F
La Jolla, CA 92037 USA
email:, or
Dr. John Petterson
Impact Assessment, Inc.
2166 Avenida de la Playa, Ste. F
La Jolla, CA 92037 USA

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This page updated November 16, 2004