Case Studies of Hawaii Longline Fishermen's Perspectives on Bycatch Reduction

In 2008, the PIFSC completed a study of Hawaii longline fishermen's perspectives on bycatch reduction. The research, funded through the Fisheries Disaster Relief Program, consisted of developing five case studies to complement more-comprehensive studies of sociocultural characteristics of the Hawaii longline industry. The case studies were chosen to deal with a range of bycatch reduction techniques, from gear-based strategies that are already in use and mandated by law (such as the use of circle hooks and fish bait for vessels targeting swordfish), to social sanctions within ethnic networks of the fleet.

Other reports describing the effectiveness of bycatch reduction techniques exist but this research focused on fishermen's perceptions of and reactions to the strategies. Diffusion of innovations theory, which explains how technological innovation is communicated over time among the members of a social system, was useful in explaining many of the findings.

Case Study One: Fishing Vessel Operators' Experiences with Circle Hooks: Success for Fishermen and Fisheries Managers. This case study utilized open-ended interviews and focus groups to explore fishermen's overall satisfaction with circle hooks and mackerel bait and perceived effects on catch rates of target species, turtle interactions, cost, efficiency and on-board safety. Many of Hawaii's longline swordfish vessel operators were present in Hawaii prior to the 2001 swordfish closure and had previous experience utilizing traditional "J" hooks. With the swordfish fishery re-opening in 2004, fishing vessel operators engaged in targeting swordfish had exclusively used circle hooks for up to three years. The perceptions of these individuals were of particular interest as they provided the opportunity for a comparison between the "J" and circle hooks. Many of the swordfish operators also began using circle hooks in the tuna fishery, even though it was not required gear.

Case Study Two: Adoption of the Seabird Avoidance Method of Side Setting on Board a Hawaii Longline Tuna Fishing Vessel. This case study explored the reasons why some vessel operators converted and implemented side-setting techniques with relative ease, success, and satisfaction. Why these particular individuals or vessels were more apt to experience success when side setting can best be understood by exploring potential obstacles experienced when side setting, and considering how these barriers have been overcome. Vessel operators who prepared or converted to side setting and subsequently reverted to stern setting were interviewed to discover perceived obstacles and problems encountered with side setting techniques. Following this, another fisherman was interviewed who had engaged in side setting for nearly three years and was highly satisfied with the strategy; he addressed the concerns and shared his own experiences.

Case Study Three: Mechanisms of Communication and Transfer of Knowledge Within the Hawaii Longline Community: Implications for Bycatch Reduction Strategies. This case study explored the transfer of knowledge among Hawaii longline fishing vessel operators. Understanding how fishing vessel operators make decisions, and the social and professional networks influencing these decisions, can assist in implementation of successful bycatch reduction in two ways. First, it allows for exploration of the implications that these networks have on adoption of, and satisfaction with, non-mandated bycatch reduction strategies. Second, it describes communication networks within the Hawaii longline fleet and shows the intricacies and issues associated with Hawaii longline vessels developing a fleet communication program as a bycatch reduction strategy. Participant observation was crucial to this case study. Informal interviews also focused on the structure, divisions, and hierarchy of social networks within the Hawaii longline fleet as explained by fishing vessel owners, operators, and crew.

Case Study Four: Hawaii Longline Swordfish Fishing Vessel Operators' Use of Social Sanctions to Meet Regulatory Intent. This case study assessed the human dimensions involved in the decisions of Hawaii swordfish fishermen to self-regulate in response to regulations limiting the number of interactions with leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles. The cap on sea turtles was not reached in 2005, but was reached in March 2006, at which point the fishery was closed for the rest of the year. In seeking to explore the human dimensions relevant to reducing sea turtle interaction, this case study considered questions such as: Were there social sanctions in place to discourage or prevent vessels from reaching the cap? If so, how had these sanctions operated? What were the impacts of the 2006 closure (when the cap on loggerhead turtles was reached in March) on the swordfish component of the fleet? Were these impacts enough to prompt social sanctions in an attempt to prevent the limit from being met in subsequent years? Swordfish and tuna fishing vessel operators discussed the level of communication, effort, and social cohesion that occurred within the fleet in 2006 and 2007.

Case Study Five: Re-defining Bycatch: One Hawaii Longline Vessel Operator's Ideas for Marketing Bycatch. This case study explored one particular fishing vessel operator's attempt to reduce bycatch of sharks and some other non-target species by modifying his operations and creating a market for species that otherwise would be discarded. While the operator ultimately has not yet been successful in creating an adequate market for such products, his research and ideas could be useful to other fishermen. He also illustrates the entrepreneurial spirit present in many fishermen, who by nature seek efficient, effective solutions to many problems associated with fishing and the fishery.