BFISH 2016: Hawaiʻi Bottomfish Survey Begins

October 13, 2016  

The "Hawaii Deep 7" are an important local fishery, both economically and culturally. This stock, which is made up by opakapaka (pink snapper), onaga (longtail snapper), ehu (squirrelfish snapper), kalekale (Von Siebold's snapper), gindai (Brigham's snapper), lehi (silverjaw snapper), and hapuʻupuʻu (Seale's grouper), is the subject of the first-ever comprehensive, multi-gear, fishery-independent survey for this complex fishery in Hawaiian waters. The survey's goal is to work cooperatively with local fishermen and use new technologies to obtain information about this group of seven deep-water snappers and grouper that will improve our understanding of these important fish populations around Hawaiʻi and inform management decisions.

The Hawaii Deep 7 bottomfish are a group of seven deep-water snappers and groupers.
The Hawaiʻi Deep 7 bottomfish are a group of seven deep-water snappers and groupers.

"This effort is five years in development and we are anxious to use our state-of-the-art cooperative research to understand fish populations and provide the best scientific information to fishery managers for the Deep 7 complex", said Dr. Michael Seki, Director of NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Cooperative Research Fishermen aboard the R/V Naomi K supporting the BFISH Main Hawaiian Islands Bottomfish Survey off of 
        Maui.
Cooperative Research Fishermen aboard the R/V Naomi K supporting the BFISH Main Hawaiian Islands Bottomfish Survey off of Maui.

The survey is being conducted in two phases. During phase one, which began in September, PIFSC scientists are working with local fishermen, in partnership with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group, to collect using a fishing technique that mimics the commercial fishery, but which has been standardized by having each fishing vessel use the same set up of hooks, line, and bait. Fishermen are asked to record the species, number, and size of each fish captured. For biological data, the fish are sent to NOAA for processing to determine, among other things, how long these fish live, when they start producing offspring, and how many offspring are normally produced.

The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette supporting the BFISH Main Hawaiian Islands Bottomfish Survey off of Maui.
The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette supporting the BFISH Main Hawaiian Islands Bottomfish Survey off of Maui.

During phase 2, which will take place in the later half of October, PIFSC scientists will set sail on the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette to use a new underwater camera system to collect video footage of these bottomfish, in their deep water habitat around the main Hawaiian Islands. Scientists will be able to identify, count, and measure each fish seen in the video. This phase will be done in collaboration with colleagues from the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Opakapaka and Kahala as seen at a depth of 460 feet in video from the Modular Optical Underwater Survey System (MOUSS) (video contains no audio).

"This new information will help us continue to improve our knowledge of the Deep 7 bottomfish complex", said Dr. Benjamin Richards, PIFSC Research Fishery Biologist and Chief Scientist for the Deep 7 BFISH survey.

The surveys will be completed by late October, but analysis of the data may take up to 6 months. The information from the surveys enhances and expands upon data collected from the commercial fishery and will be used in stock assessment reports, which help to guide management and conservation efforts for the Deep 7 complex.

This research expedition is being led by Dr. Benjamin Richards and Russell Reardon of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Follow #BFISH on Twitter at @NOAAFish_PIFSC.