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Distribution and Use of Seafood in the Context of the Community: A Case Study of the Main Hawaiian Islands

Progress reports (PDF): FY 2010, FY 2009, FY 2008, FY 2007

The transfer of marine resources from point of capture to point of consumption (or point of release back into the marine environment), is generally understood in rudimentary terms, and primarily for commercial fisheries only. Yet the economic, social, cultural, and political implications of commercial and non-commercial distribution of seafood products are at the heart of fisheries management. Well-developed quantitative and qualitative description and analysis of the commercial and non-commercial transfer or "flow" of seafood from hook to plate bears potential for enhancing understanding of the motivations and benefits associated with marine fisheries, and the implications of resource management decisions that could in some manner alter those opportunities.

Further, insofar as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act (MSFMCA) defines "fishing communities" in large part in terms of social and economic activity associated with the harvest, processing and distribution of seafood, analysis of the commercial and non-commercial distribution of seafood may serve as an ideal indicator of the existence and characteristics of such places or situations. But as resource managers and agency administrators are aware, the definition of fishing community as defined by the MSFMCA and National Standard 8 (NS-8) is in certain ways problematic, in part because it is intrinsically "place-based."

For instance, in settings where fishing-related activities are important both within and across numerous interrelated places and levels of society, as is the case in Hawaii, it can be difficult to empirically define fishing community in distinct spatial terms. Moreover, while it can be useful to investigate fisheries-relevant aspects of various cities, towns, and villages, and to assess degree of involvement of residents in fishing-related activities, these efforts can tend to overemphasize the relative importance of fishing activities vis--vis other more economically significant activities, while deemphasizing the absolute importance of marine fisheries to the actual participants.

In this case, we argue that the most pertinent fishing community is that of a given fishery itself, and/or components thereof. The proposed work is intended to examine an expanded definition of fishing community - one which social actors cooperating or interacting to effect the harvest, distribution, and consumptive use of the resources are considered without overt regard to place of residence.

This rationale relates directly to the above-mentioned need for understanding patterns of seafood harvest, distribution, and consumption. We intend to identify "at-sea" communities or social networks of interacting or cooperating fishermen, and figuratively (and at times, with their willing cooperation, literally) trace them back to their respective points of seafood distribution and places of residence. In this manner it may be possible to better define, via the commercial and non-commercial flow of seafood products, not only patterns of motivation and outcome as regards fishing and seafood distribution, but also patterns of fisheries-specific social and economic interaction that are critical to any definition of fishing community. Whether, in fact, such patterns will reveal common and/or integrated spatial elements in specific locations on land remains a question for empirical investigation.

Four Oahu-based fleets are being examined in these regards in select locations on Oahu: (1) the small-boat consumption-oriented fishery, (2) the small-boat mixed motivation fishery, (3) the small-boat commercial handline and troll fishery, and (4) the Hawaii-based longline fishery. Research methods involve: (1) compilation and review existing data and reports regarding the fisheries in question, (2) conduct of in-depth discussions with vessel operators, crew, and their extended families; fish buyers and purveyors; regional fisheries managers; and others highly knowledgeable of pelagic fisheries in the MHI, and (3) observation of cases and contexts indicative of the flow of seafood products from point of harvest to point of consumption per the fisheries, markets, and consuming populations in question.

The intent of the project is neither exhaustive sampling nor universal representation of the distribution and use of seafood in Hawaii. Rather, it is to describe the ways in which the fisheries in question function in terms of typical processes of harvest, distribution, and consumption, and to enable explanation of variation in those processes within and across groups of fishery participants.

In sum, the research strategy will enable a systematic and empirical tracing out, documentation, and analysis of the behaviors and key attributes of fishery participants who interact (and potentially cooperate) at sea, who distribute their products in various ways and places, and who reside in places that may or may not correlate in spatial terms with points of vessel mooring, or places of landing, marketing, sharing, or consumption of seafood.

We believe this project is likely to further understanding of the social and economic dynamics of marine fisheries in Hawaii while providing insight into efforts to define and identify fishing communities here and elsewhere. As such, the project has the potential to improve the accuracy and potential benefits of environmental, regulatory, and social impact assessments undertaken in Hawaii, in other island areas of the Western Pacific, and in other regions of the U.S.

Funding for this project to be awarded in mid-2006.


Principal Investigators:
Dr. Edward Glazier
Impact Assessment, Inc.
Pacific Islands Office
2950-C Pacific Heights Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 USA
Phone (808) 545-1044
email: iai@san.rr.com, or
Dr. Stewart Allen
National Marine Fisheries Service
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Honolulu Laboratory
2570 Dole Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 USA
Phone (808) 983-5341
FAX (808) 983-2902


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This page updated October 4, 2010