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Small Boat Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna Operations and Regulatory Scenarios in the Main Hawaiian Islands

See also Trophic Ecology and Structure-Associated Aggregation Behavior in Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna in Hawaiian Waters (PIs: Kim Holland, David Itano, and Laurent Dagorn)

Progress Report (PDF): FY 2008, FY 2007, FY 2006

Background and Rationale

The stock structure and migratory patterns of bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) in the Pacific Ocean remain uncertain. But pan-Pacific and regional stock assessments indicate that maximum sustainable yield is now collectively exceeded by the various fishing fleets active in this broad region (Hampton et al. 2004; Harley and Maunder 2004; Hampton et al. 2003). The situation has led the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) to submit a Determination of Overfishing, with an accompanying request to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) to take appropriate and timely action to end overfishing of bigeye tuna (BET) across its area of jurisdiction.

Efforts to assess, manage, and ultimately improve the status of BET stocks in the central and western Pacific are complicated in that:
(a) migratory patterns, foraging behavior, stock structure, and associated oceanographic factors are not well-known for BET, and there are pragmatic constraints to rapid development of such knowledge,
(b) fishing pressure occurs as a result of deployment of various types of gear by both domestic and foreign fleets active across each of the eastern, central, and western Pacific regions,
(c) multiple island and continental government agencies and regional entities (including the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) are involved in the management of such diverse activities, and
(d) it appears that stocks are already in decline, thereby increasing both the challenges to, and urgency of, effective management strategies.

Small boat production figures for BET (and yellowfin) around the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) are minimal relative to those of the longline fleet. But the harvest is undeniably significant to small boat operators in an absolute sense, and high return on investment has led to effective harvest and marketing strategies for many. Moreover, given evidence that pursuit of BET around various types of fish aggregating devices (FADs) is increasingly important for purse seine operators in the eastern Pacific (PFRP 1999:4), and for participants in artisanal fisheries elsewhere in the tropical Pacific (Hampton et al. 2004:3), project researchers emphasize the utility of researching small boat operations that focus on publicly- and privately-owned FADs in the MHI as means for furthering understanding of the mechanics and motivations of FAD fishing and associated fishing pressure as manifest elsewhere in the Pacific.

Given what appears to be imminent movement toward increased regulatory control of small boat and longline fleets operating around the MHI, and the inevitable need for analysis of the potential economic and social-operational effects of such regulation, this proposal also describes a plan for characterizing the socioeconomic and cultural contexts and conditions within which the BET small boat fleet operates. Such characterization may serve as a baseline against which potential changes could be assessed and analytically parceled given the potential regulatory scenarios thus far outlined by the WPRFMC Science and Statistical Committee (2005).

Goals and Objectives
The primary goal of the proposed research is to provide PFRP, and hence the WPRFMC, with valid and reliable information regarding historic and contemporary trends in commercial pursuit of BET and yellowfin tuna by the small boat fleet operating around the MHI. This research would serve as the human dimensions component of the ongoing University of Hawaii Pelagic Fisheries Research Program (PFRP) project titled "Trophic Ecology and Structured-Associated Aggregation Behavior in Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna in Hawaiian Waters," currently being conducted by Holland et al.

Special focus will be applied to: (a) description and analysis of operations associated with private FAD-oriented BET fishing offshore the Big Island (and potentially Kauai if research indicates extensive use of the devices in the more northerly research of the MHI EEZ), (b) apparent changes in use of ika-shibi and other techniques formerly or currently popular in the region, and (c) market/distribution and other socioeconomic and sociocultural factors of identifiable relevance to small boat operations in the MHI.

The secondary goal of the project is to characterize the economic, social and cultural contexts within which the BET/yellowfin small boat fisheries are conducted. Satisfaction of this goal would provide the background needed to interpret information generated through meeting the primary goal above, and would enable potential future assessment of regulatory actions as these could affect the small boat fleet and its participants.

The project goals will be met by accomplishing the following interrelated objectives. Certain objectives and associated research methods would integrate or supplement those of the researcher's ongoing PFRP ika-shibi project, as appropriate. The proposed project objectives are as follow:

(1) Conduct thorough review of HDAR, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Coast Guard, PFRP, Council, and other data and report sources regarding trends in fleet-wide production and value, operational costs and revenue, regulatory processes and violations, and other critical aspects of handline, FAD, private FAD, and other gear, strategies, and issues relevant to BET/yellowfin small boat fisheries in the MHI and elsewhere.

(2) Conduct a series of interviews with state and federal resource managers, scientists, harbormasters, interest group leaders, market personnel, and other knowledgeable persons in order to more fully understand and characterize the basic operational, geographic, regulatory, and socio-political contexts of private FAD fishing in the EEZ of the MHI.

(3) During those interviews, work to identify key persons who have historically participated in, or who are currently participating in private FAD fishing operations in the EEZ of the MHI.

(4) Work with NOAA Fisheries social science staff to convene small focus group meetings with private FAD fishery participants willing to consult with the research team.

(5) Subsequent to identification of salient issues and concerns, and establishment of working rapport with fishery participants, seek to identify additional participants who would be willing to participate in interview discussions with IAI staff regarding pertinent aspects of private FAD operations.

(6) Conduct a series of interviews with key informants regarding factors of potential interest to PFRP, the WPRFMC, and Holland et al., including but not limited to: (a) the basic nature of typical private FAD construction, deployment, and operations, (b) gear and bait strategies around the FAD, (c) general area preferences and associated rationale for deploying the FADs; (d) production, value, and marketing/distribution trends and challenges associated with the operations; (e) means and ranges of investments and returns; (f) ecological knowledge and observed changes in factors such as current shears, convergent flows, thermocline factors, and biological communities associated with the FADs; (g) the nature and frequency of interactions with the longline fleet; and (h) social, economic, and cultural factors in the household and home community as these constrain and/or enable fishing operations. It is noted that certain forms of information may be difficult to acquire and that preliminary work should serve to identify particularly sensitive areas of inquiry.

(7) Work with select key informants to enable participant observation of private FAD operations offshore Hawaii Island.

(8) Incorporate archival review, interview, and observational findings from the ika-shibi project with the same elements derived during the private FAD BET/yellowfin project to generate description and analysis of the nature of BET/yellowfin fishing pressure associated with small boat fishing operations in the MHI. The work would focus especially on description of private FAD operations, use of various handline gear and associated strategies, and relevant ecological, economic, social, and cultural factors and baseline conditions.

(9) Generate a report providing information and analysis pertinent to PFRP and Council needs.

Funding for this 1-year project to be awarded in mid 2005.

Literature cited:
• Hampton, John, P. Kleiber, Y. Takeuchi, H. Kurota, and M. Maunder. 2003. Stock Assessment of Bigeye Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, with Comparisons to the Entire Pacific Ocean. SCTB 16 Working Paper BET-1. Sixteenth Meeting of the Standing Committee on Tuna and Billfish. Queensland, Australia.
• Hampton, John, P. Kleiber, A. Langley, and K. Hiramatsu. 2004. Stock Assessment of Bigeye Tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. SCTB17 Working Paper. Majuro, Marshall Islands.
• Harley, S.J., and M.N. Maunder. 2004. Status of Bigeye Tuna in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2003 and Outlook for 2004. Working Group on Stock Assessments, 5th Meeting, La Jolla, California. Document SART-5-05 BET. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. La Jolla.
• PFRP. 1999. Pelagic Fisheries Research Program Newsletter. Volume 4, Number 3. July-September. University of Hawaii at Manoa. Honolulu.

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. John Petterson
Impact Assessment, Inc.
2166 Avenida de la Playa, Ste. F
La Jolla, CA 92037 USA
Phone (858) 459-0142
FAX (858) 459-9461
email: iai@san.rr.com


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This page updated August 7, 2008