Fisheries Monitoring and Socioeconomics Division

Fresh ahi tuna caught by local fishing vessels are 
        landed on the Honolulu waterfront and auctioned to restaurants, fish dealers and other buyers to satisfy 
        consumers in Hawaii and the mainland United States.
Fresh ahi tuna caught by local fishing vessels are landed on the Honolulu waterfront and auctioned to restaurants, fish dealers and other buyers to satisfy consumers in Hawaii and the mainland United States.

The Fisheries Monitoring and Socioeconomics Division (FMSD) specializes in collecting, processing, and analyzing data from U.S. fisheries in the Pacific Islands Region. The FMSD monitors U.S. fisheries and issues reports of fisheries statistics; provides official fisheries statistics to fulfill U.S. obligations for data exchange and reporting under several international agreements; provides technical support to help PIFSC partner agencies in American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and Hawaii develop and administer local commercial fisheries monitoring programs; coordinates programs to collect recreational fisheries data and establish biological sampling of fisheries in the Region; and conducts social and economic research on marine resource use. In addition to regular fishery reports, FMSD develops custom data products to satisfy information requests from fisheries scientists and managers.

The FMSD is organized into four programs:

  • The Western Pacific Fisheries Information Network (WPacFIN) is a cooperative program involving a central office at PIFSC and collaborating local fisheries agencies in American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii. The WPacFIN central office compiles fisheries information collected by these agencies and provides technical expertise and software tools to help them collect fishery-dependent data to meet the needs of local, federal, and international fisheries management organizations.
  • The Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Program (FMAP) collects, processes, and reports federally mandated longline logbook data. FMAP also provides information on federally regulated fisheries to fishers and industry constituents and makes nonconfidential data available to fishers and other clients. FMAP conducts outreach to improve PIFSC communication with fishers. The program's Barbless Circle Hook Project fosters use of barbless hooks to reduce and mitigate interactions of recreational shoreline fishers with protected species such as sea turtles and monk seals.
  • The Economics Program (EP) contributes to Pacific Islands Region fisheries management by assessing the economic health and capacity of fishing fleets, monitoring fleet and vessel costs and earnings, studying fish prices and markets, developing models to examine economic impacts of fisheries regulations, and evaluating direct-use and indirect-use values of living marine resources.
  • The Human Dimensions Research Program (HDRP) studies the "people" side of fishing and other uses of marine ecosystems in the Pacific Islands Region. HDRP research complements biophysical and economic studies by exploring social and cultural benefits and values associated with marine resources and examining the role that institutions and traditional marine use practices can play in ensuring sustainable use and conservation in the current socioeconomic context.

A small group of staff works directly under the Division Chief to provide core administrative and technical support to the primary FMSD programs.

FMSD has a staff of 31 including 13 federal employees, 17 JIMAR/contract employees, and a UH student assistant. Personnel and grants made up the largest proportion of expenditures in FY 2009.

Fisheries Monitoring and Socioeconomics Division-FY 2009
  $ %
Salaries and benefits 1,540,301 47.2
Grants 1,237,300 37.9
Contracts 127,536 3.9
Travel, transportation, charters, printing, supplies, equipment 357,456 11.0
Total $3,262,593  
FMSD Personnel
Federal 13
Other 1
Total 31

Key 2009 Accomplishments

FMSD provides many products and services on a recurrent basis, including quarterly and annual summaries of catch and effort data for longline fisheries in Hawaii and American Samoa, sections of annual reports for Fishery Management Plans, and annual inputs of fishery statistics to Fisheries of the United States. The Division's major accomplishments and new initiatives in 2009 included the following:

  • Provided technical support to fishery offices in American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawaii to improve data collection and reporting.
  • Conducted new fast-track quota monitoring systems for the Hawaii pelagic longline and deep slope bottomfish fisheries and provided in-season landings estimates used by the agency to regulate the fisheries.
  • Provided support for U.S. fishery reports and data submittals to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean.
  • Compiled up-to-date statistics for U.S. fisheries of the Pacific Islands Region and made them publicly available on the WPacFIN Web site.
  • Provided services to support management of the "Deep-7" bottomfish fishery in the main Hawaiian Islands by the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, PIRO and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPFMC).
  • Expanded the outreach and education program for use of barbless circle hooks in Hawaii's shoreline recreational fishery.
  • Began the digital scanning of logbook data for the Hawaii pelagic longline fishery, enabling efficient archival and searching of logbook records.
  • Collaborated with the Information Technology Services group on Web-based reporting and electronic logbook solutions to make fishery reporting and monitoring faster, easier, and more accurate.
  • Initiated long-term programs for biological sampling of fisheries throughout the Pacific Islands Region in cooperation with fisheries agencies in American Samoa, CNMI, and Guam.
  • Chaired a session at a Fisheries Workshop in American Samoa to collect and evaluate information on historic fish catch and species composition, current fish catch rates and species abundance, and current management systems and challenges.
  • Developed an economic demand model for Hawaii bottomfish to estimate the degree of market substitutability for various fish species at the wholesale market level and provide guidance for establishing and managing the total allowable catch (TAC) for main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 bottomfish.
  • Completed a manuscript on valuation of consumer choices in the spinner dolphin excursion industry and the implications for spinner dolphin conservation in Hawaii.
  • Created the Fishing Ecosystem Analysis Tool, a new soft ware application for spatially analyzing commercial fish catch data, linking them to socioeconomic conditions, and displaying the output in Google Earth and other formats.
  • Established priorities for current and outyear funding of socioeconomics research, including development of new research programs and strengthening of core research capabilities.

Challenges, Problems, and Limitations

The FMSD must meet increasing demand for improvements in fisheries data collection, management, and reporting. FMSD will continue to provide fishery statistics and scientific information to the WPFMC in support of Fishery Management Plans and Fishery Ecosystem Plans. New mandates for permitting, reporting, and management of total allowable catch under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act present a challenge in the Pacific islands, where regulations governing such management measures are generally absent. Other challenges are anticipated in fisheries data collection as the agency implements annual catch limits and other new mandates for catch monitoring in domestic and international arenas, including domestic recreational fisheries.

Marine resource managers seeking to implement catch shares, ecosystem-based approaches, or other new conservation measures need information about the effects of alternative management actions on different socioeconomic groups. Accordingly, the importance of economics and human dimensions research will continue to grow. The capacity to meet these research needs will be enhanced by stronger partnerships with other NOAA offices and other organizations.

Future Focus and Direction

FMSD will need to maintain comprehensive metadata and documentation of data collections, procedures, and data products; collaborate effectively with partners; streamline and automate data collecting and processing; and improve delivery of products and services to constituents.

WPacFIN will work with partner offices to improve data collection programs in American Samoa, CNMI, Guam and Hawaii. WPacFIN will continue to develop databases and data processing applications, including data integration tools. WPacFIN also will update contents of its Web site, service protocols for data requests, and documentation for data collection programs and database applications.

FMAP will help develop better ways for fishers to report catch and effort, including electronic logbooks and electronic transmission of catch reports. FMAP will improve fishery monitoring, make fishery data more accessible through the Center's Web site, and continue to promote the use of barbless circle hooks in shoreline fisheries.

EP will conduct a workshop on catch shares and a cost-earnings study of the main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish fishery. As funding permits, EP will broaden its research on the economics of coral reef resources, protected species, and ecotourism and conduct more economics research in American Samoa, Guam, and CNMI.

In 2010, HDRP will publish profiles of fishing communities in Hawaii and CNMI, complete a plan to monitor the human dimensions of coral reef ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands, and further develop its geographic information systems to support analysis of fishing impacts in the main Hawaiian Islands. HDRP will also continue to provide social science assistance and advice to partners in the Pacific and U.S. mainland.

In 2010, the socioeconomic programs (EP and HDRP) will operate in the Directors Office to enhance their scope across all five PIFSC research divisions.

In Guam, when schools of atulai (bigeye 
        scad) come close to shore, fishermen catch them with surrounding nets and share the harvest with family and 
In Guam, when schools of atulai (bigeye scad) come close to shore, fishermen catch them with surrounding nets and share the harvest with family and friends.

Economic Analysis of Seafood Market Broadens Context for Management of Hawaii Bottomfish

A recent study of the Hawaii seafood market has provided economic information to broaden the context for management of commercial bottomfish fishing in the main Hawaiian Islands. The multispecies fishery is regulated by limiting the annual MHI catch of 'Deep-7' bottomfish (a grouper and 6 species of deep-water snapper) to a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) level, determined from a biological assessment of the Hawaii bottomfish stock. There are concerns that recent changes to TAC management, coupled with increasing imports of fresh bottomfish from the South Pacific, may be distorting traditional demand and supply relationships in the Hawaii fishery. To address these topics, PIFSC economists estimated a generalized inverse demand model to examine market linkages and assess how prices may respond to a variety of potential TAC levels.

Using market data for 1996-2006, economists Justin Hospital and Minling Pan studied domestic catches and market prices of bottomfish and reef fish, along with data on competing imports of bottomfish from the South Pacific.

They found that Hawaii bottomfish prices are price elastic, which means that prices are not very responsive to changes in quantities of fish on the market. Import prices are even less responsive to changes in their own supply than are domestic bottomfish. All species in the demand system were found to be substitutes for each other in the marketplace, implying that MHI Deep-7 TAC decisions may have economic 'spillover' effects and suggesting that the mandated closure of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands bottomfish fishery will likely increase local demand for bottomfish caught in the main Hawaiian Islands and imports from the South Pacific. Moreover, an increase in the overall supply of bottomfish and their substitutes would likely cause a decrease in prices for domestic bottomfish.

The findings of elastic prices and high levels of substitution make it difficult to balance conservation and economic considerations in the MHI bottomfish fishery. According to Hospital and Pan, if the MHI bottomfish TAC were temporarily reduced as a short-term conservation measure, consumers would likely suffer higher prices in the short term. And despite any price increases resulting from reduced catches, total revenues for the fishery may well decline. In the long term, though, as stock recovery enabled a higher TAC, consumers would likely enjoy lower bottomfish prices.

The economic information, published in a NOAA Technical Memorandum, enables fishery managers to examine trade-offs and frame more broadly based management policies that take into consideration not only biological, but also economic factors.

Reference: Hospital, J., and M. Pan. 2009. Demand for Hawaii bottomfish revisited: incorporating economics into total allowable catch management. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NOAA-TM-NMFSPIFSC-20, 19 p. + Appendix [available at (0.5 MB)].

Fish on ice
Last updated September 21 2012