Economic Performance of the Hawaii Longline Fishery

Objectives and Methods

In August 2004, PIFSC economists established an economic data collection program in the Hawaii-based longline fisheries through a collaboration between the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Economics Program and the Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) Observer Program. The program gathers expenditure data for sampled longline fishing trips on a continuous basis.

PIFSC researchers created a form to collect the economic data. The form is available in English, Korean, and Vietnamese to accommodate the primary languages of vessel owners and operators in the fleet. The data form data form is comprised of 10 variable cost items commonly arising in Hawaii longline trips, but excludes labor costs. Non-labor cost items include unit price, quantity used, and total costs of diesel fuel, engine oil, bait, ice, swordfish certificates (shallow-sets only; 2004-2012), and lightsticks (shallow-sets only); and the total costs for gear, provisions, and communications. Additional information about the operator and crew is also collected. In recent years, foreign crew members have become more prevalent in the longline crews. A survey question was developed specifically to help in understanding the status of foreign crew.

The project intends to collect data from all observed trips. Observers accompany 100% of Hawaii-based shallow-set longline trips (targeting swordfish) and about 20% of deep-set trips (targeting tuna). Since the economic data collection project was implemented in August 2004, economic data have been collected for over 1,900 longline fishing trips (through 2012). A high proportion of Hawaii longline fishing vessels have voluntarily provided fishing trip cost data during the NMFS observer program economic surveys.

The participation of fishermen in the economic data survey is voluntary. The survey wouldn't succeed without the generous support of vessel owners and operators. Thanks to their cooperation, the survey response rate has been excellent. The response rate increased from about 45% in 2004, the first year of the program, to 68% in 2007. The average response rate from 2005 to 2012 was about 64%.

Summary Data Products

The data collected through this program provide important economic indicators of fishery performance. PIFSC has completed an internal report and a brochure summarizing these data:

Pan M, Chan H, and Kalberg K
2012. Tracking the Changes of Economic Performance Indicators for the Main U.S. Commercial Fisheries in the Pacific Islands Region. Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Internal Report IR-12-039, 18 p.
2004-2012 Hawaii Longline Trip Expenditures Brochure

Below are selected charts that present key summary information related to fishing costs analyses of these data; more information is available in above-referenced report.

Trip costs for Hawaii longline tuna fishing trips, 2004-2012

The following chart depicting trip costs shows an increasing trend in the variable cost of tuna trips (not including labor costs). An average tuna trip cost $30,700 in 2012. Over the period 2004-2012, the average trip cost in the Hawaii tuna longline fishery more than doubled, from $13,800 per trip to $30,700 per trip, due primarily to the increase in fuel price. In 2004, fuel cost made up about 45% of the total trip costs (non-labor items). However, in 2012, when the average yearly fuel price reached a high of $3.90 per gallon (the price paid by fishermen; the AAA price was $4.78/gallon), about 58% of the trip costs (non-labor items) were from fuel.

Trip costs (non-labor costs) for Hawaii longline tuna fishing trips, 2004-2012.
Trip costs (non-labor costs) for Hawaii longline tuna fishing trips, 2004-2012.

Trip Costs for Hawaii Longline Swordfish Fishing Trips, 2005-2012

Swordfish fishing trips are usually longer than tuna fishing trips, even when trips are carried out by the same vessel. As a result, the cost of a swordfish trip is more than the cost of a tuna trip, approximately double on average. For example, in 2012 when the average yearly fuel price was at its peak, an average swordfish trip cost about $57,242 (non-labor items), while a tuna trip cost about $30,700.

Trip costs (non-labor costs) for Hawaii longline swordfish fishing trips, 2005-2012.
Trip costs (non-labor costs) for Hawaii longline swordfish fishing trips, 2005-2012.

Fuel Price Trends - Hawaii

The price paid by fishermen is less than the AAA reported price. However, the two price series moved up and down consistently. The fuel price spiked in 2008 and the highest price (paid by fishermen) was $4.27 per gallon, appearing in Jun 2008. Although, the price went down sharply within a few months, down to $1.97 per gallon in December 2008, it went up gradually to $4:00 per gallon during the period of 2009 to 2010. The fuel price in 2011 and 2012 were relatively stable and was near or under $4:00 per gallon for the most of time.

Hawaii fuel price trends, 2004-2012.
Hawaii fuel price trends, 2004-2012.