Distribution and Use of Seafood in the Context of the Community: A Case Study of the Main Hawaiian Islands

The Oahu seafood distribution project was a joint endeavor involving PIFSC staff and co-Principal Investigator Ed Glazier of Impact Assessment, Inc. The goal was to provide fishery managers with empirically-based description and analysis of market and non-market distribution of pelagic seafood in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The project used a case study approach to examine cultural and community dynamics associated with the pursuit, capture, sharing, reciprocal exchange, and sale of pelagic fish for small boat fleets at Waiʻanae on the Leeward Coast of Oahu and at Haleʻiwa on the North Shore of Oahu. The analysis was configured so that project results can be used to improve understanding of seafood distribution elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands.

The results demonstrated that the local social and cultural significance of pursuing, catching, distributing, and consuming fish could not be overstated. Haleʻiwa-based full-time commercial fishermen reported selling 86 percent of all pelagic fish, sharing 9 percent, and eating 5 percent. The part-time commercial group reported selling 67 percent, sharing 27 percent, and eating 6 percent, and a consumption/recreation-oriented group reported selling no fish, sharing 56 percent, and eating 44 percent. Full-time commercial operators at Waiʻanae reported selling some 69 percent of pelagic fish landed the previous year, sharing 18 percent, and consuming 13 percent. Local part-time commercial fishermen reported selling 38 percent, sharing 46 percent, and eating 16 percent. The consumption/recreation-oriented group reported selling no fish, sharing 67 percent, and eating 33 percent. While economic conditions are challenging in both communities, and fishermen in both networks meet this challenge in part through reciprocal exchange of seafood and fishing-related labor, this mode of adaptation is particularly common in and around Waiʻanae. Many Native Hawaiians live in the Waiʻanae area and there is a well-developed capacity among this group to maintain traditional ways of life amidst the social and economic pressures of modern capitalism. Although people from around Oʻahu trailer their boats to fish along the Leeward Coast, locally-based Waiʻanae fishermen are often part of a distinct local culture and informal economy. This is true to a lesser extent in Haleʻiwa, where there is greater mixture of economic activities and cultures.

Progress reports and a final summary are available on the web site of the Pelagic Fishery Research Program (which funded the study) at: http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PFRP/socio/glazier_distribution_channels.html.

Preliminary results were presented at the PFRP Principal Investigators Workshop, November 18-19, 2008, Honolulu.