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Sociological Baseline of Hawaii's Longline Fishery

National Standard 8 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 as amended in 1996 (MSA) requires analysis of the impact of proposed fishery regulations and similar activities on "fishing communities." NEPA analysis contained in Environmental Assessments (EA) and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) requires a similar analysis of the impact of federal projects, including fishery regulations, protected species recovery actions and habitat designations on the human environment.

Unfortunately the baseline for such analyses for Hawaii's longline fishery, inter. alia, is quite slim, despite the intensity of interest directed towards that fishery sector. Previous socio-anthropological studies have emphasized the small boat fisheries of Hawaii and the traditional fisheries of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The recent EIS on the region's pelagic fisheries was required to utilize secondary data (e.g. Census maps and zip code information from permits) and information gleaned from economic studies to characterize the longline fishery. The socio-cultural portion of that EIS was forced to use the entire State of Hawaii as the unit of analysis for social impacts and to define the entire Honolulu area as a "fishing community" even though more discrete social and geographical units might have been more appropriate.

The ethnically diverse makeup of longline industry participants in Hawaii and the transitory nature of the industry (e.g., many longline industry participants converted ships after moving from other regions) highlight the need for primary data on contemporary sociocultural characteristics. The longline industry has been heavily regulated with little understanding of the socio-cultural impacts of those regulations and management. Project researchers intend to address this problem directly by:

  • compiling a comprehensive social profile of the longline fishing industry of Hawaii
  • providing social profile information to decision-makers on regulatory impacts and implementation strategies

Project researchers will conduct direct in-person interviews and focus groups with longline captains, owners, crews, and family members, as well as key individuals in associated shoreside businesses (e.g., auction, fishing supplies, wholesale and retail seafood, etc.) The purpose will be to compile a demographic profile and network analysis of economic and social interactions which would enrich subsequent NEPA analyses. The project will have three phases:

  1. Phase I will involve designing the interview formats through discussion with key informants in the longline industry, community leaders of the pertinent social and ethnic groups involved in the industry and regulatory decision-makers.
  2. Phase II will involve testing the resulting interview format(s) with several small industry focus groups. This will ensure consistency between interviews and highlight any potential problems, barriers or sensitivities.
  3. Phase III will involve field interviews with the full range of longline industry participants. A core set of topics would be covered in a consistent manner but the interview format would remain flexible, allowing interviews to vary with respondents' roles in the longline industry, areas of knowledge, and interest in various topics.

Deliverables will include a data base of responses from the Hawaii longline fishing community, and a report summarizing those data and providing contextual information for evaluating those data. Although some of these data will be confidential due to the sensitivity and potentially statutorily confidential nature of these responses, a research data base to be shared with other researchers will be constructed as well. These deliverables will be the baseline for subsequent NEPA analysis to be updated on a regular basis.

Funding for this 15-month project estimated to be available November 2002.

FY 2004 progress report

FY 2003 progress report


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


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This page updated August 9, 2004