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Sociological Baseline of Hawaii-Based Longline Fishery: Extension and Expansion of Scope

Progress Reports (PDF): FY 2010, FY 2009, FY 2008, FY 2007, FY 2006, FY 2005

Project Overview
This project extends the time frame and expand the scope of an existing PFRP project,
Sociological Baseline of Hawaii's Longline Fishery. The purpose of that project is to compile a comprehensive sociocultural profile of the longline fishing industry of Hawaii and provide information to decision-makers, including the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, on regulatory impacts and implementation strategies. Interviews conducted with longline captains, owners, crew, and direct support businesses have yielded more and richer types of information than anticipated, requiring additional time for data coding and both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Project researchers have also identified more key individuals than initially predicted (160 to date, compared to initial estimates of 125 total). A wealth of data is emerging from interviews with Filipino crew members, for example, regarding fishing practices, the culture of crewing, and the Honolulu-based crew as a community.

As a result, this project is an extension of the sociological baseline project allowing researchers to more fully explore fish distribution channels and markets for longline-caught fish. Based on the information gained to date, it has become apparent that the process of fully documenting the sociocultural aspects of fish distribution channels for longline caught pelagic fish and interactions with economic considerations would constitute a significant expansion of effort. Hawaii longline fisheries provide roughly 75% of the pelagic fishery landings in Hawaii, so following the distribution channels for these fish would constitute study of a major portion of the local landings.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (2003) listed the various sectors of the distribution channels including the Honolulu fish auction, wholesalers, fish peddlers, retailers, and restaurants, as well as how prices change as a fish makes its way from fisherman to consumer. Although these distributions channels have been studied from an economic perspective (Pooley 1986) and as a sociological entity (Peterson 1973), they either did not explore sociocultural aspects of fish distributors and/or were conducted well before the arrival of longline vessels that changed the nature of the fishing industry in Hawaii.

The main objectives of this project extension are to:

  1. Describe the people and businesses involved in the distribution of Hawaii longline caught fish, with a focus on sociocultural variables and their influences on distribution of fish apart from economic influences;
  2. Describe and communicate the results so they will be applicable to socioeconomic impact assessment of future regulatory changes and other actions affecting supply of and demand for pelagic fish;
  3. Extend the fieldwork being conducted by our existing PFRP longline project to additional people and business sectors involved in the Hawaii-based longline industry, adding to the breadth and depth of the sociocultural profiles being developed.

The project will have three phases:

  1. Phase I will involve refining the sampling procedures, interview topics and planned analyses. A sequential sampling process would be used; asking each business in the distribution chain who they buy from and sell to, so fish can be tracked through diverse distribution channels. The sampling goal is to identify a full range of participants in fish distribution channels of Hawaii longline-caught fish rather than to conduct a census or develop a random sample. Interpreters may be enlisted to assist with conducting some of the interviews.
    Based on research to date, a number of potential areas of interest have already emerged:
    History in the fish industry, how they got started in it, and how they came to be involved with the Hawaii-based longline industry;
    • Obstacles faced in the business, how they responded, what options they considered in addressing the obstacles, and perceptions of their decision;
    • Whether the swordfish closure affected their operations and, if so, how they adjusted their business practices;
    • Social and cultural considerations in buying and selling fish and their effects on how business practices have changed over time;
    • Providing interviewee the opportunity to say anything else about themselves, their role in the longline industry, social networks, or fishing in general, and whether they would like to see a copy of the results of the study when completed.
  2. Phase II will involve conducting fieldwork. Interviews with a total of 40-60 individuals and businesses involved in fish distribution channels are anticipated, although the number would be adjusted as the study progresses and information is gained. Data from the interviews will be transferred to quantitative and qualitative data bases for further analysis as they are collected.
  3. Phase III will involve analyzing the interview data and developing a report that describes sociocultural aspects of distribution of Hawaii longline-caught fish. Project researchers will identify links with information collected by the existing study of longline owners, captains, crew, and suppliers. It is anticipated that project findings will be presented at the Lake Arrowhead Tuna Conference or similar venue.

Funding for this 1-year project estimated to be available mid 2004.

Literature cited:
• Peterson, Susan Blackmore. 1973. Decisions in a market: A study of the Honolulu fish auction. Dissertation submitted to University of Hawaii, Manoa, Department of Anthropology, December 1973.

• Pooley, Samuel G. 1986. Competitive markets and bilateral exchange: the wholesale seafood market in Hawaii. Southwest Fisheries Center Administrative Report H-86-8, July, 1986.

• Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. 2003. Hawaii seafood market for pelagic fish. Document available at http://wpcouncil.org/documents/pel_mrkt.pdf Accessed 11/4/03.

Principal Investigators:

Dr. Stewart Allen
National Marine Fisheries Service
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Honolulu Laboratory
2570 Dole Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
Phone (808) 983-5341
FAX (808) 983-2902


Ms. Amy Gough
National Marine Fisheries Service
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Honolulu Laboratory
2570 Dole Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
Phone (808) 983-5379
FAX (808) 983-2902
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This page updated October 4, 2010