Utilizing Fishermen's Knowledge and Perspectives in Assessing Annual Catch Limits in the Pacific Islands Region

In 2011, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Council) was mandated to establish annual catch limits (ACLs) for all federally-managed species in the region. This specification process was difficult for many reasons: there was little precedent for commercial catch limits in areas under Council jurisdiction; quotas existed only for the Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 bottomfish complex and for bigeye and yellowfin tuna based on management measures passed by regional fisheries management organizations; and the Council was faced with specifying ACLs for many data-poor stocks. While these legal deadlines were met in 2012, a consequence was that fishermen had very limited knowledge of the procedures used or how the final limits were set, and there were no systematic opportunities for fishermen to be involved in the technical process. In response to a desire to more constructively involve fishermen in the adaptive management of ACL specification in the future, the University of Hawaiʻi's Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) and Socioeconomics Program at PIFSC developed two cooperative research projects, the overall goals of which were to seek ways for fishermen and scientists to work collaboratively to address this issue.

Reef Fish ACLs in CNMI

In September 2013, PIFSC Social Research Project Manager Cindy Grace-McCaskey and former PIFSC Social Research Project Manager Leila Sievanen conducted 38 semi-structured interviews with reef fishermen and vendors on Saipan regarding the importance of reef fishing to the local community. Utilizing the data collected in these interviews, Grace-McCaskey and Sievanen held a follow-up Fishermen's Workshop in Saipan in November 2013 to solicit further input from fishermen, fisheries managers, and other community members on four key aspects of the reef fishery: (1) social importance, (2) economic importance, (3) ecological importance, and (4) factors contributing to management uncertainty. In addition, Marlowe Sabater of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council co-hosted the workshop and spoke to attendees about the importance of a bottom-up approach to fisheries management, and why it is important for them to participate in the management process. The data collected through the interviews and Fishermen's Workshop were then presented to and utilized by the Council's Social, Economic, Ecological, and Management Uncertainty (SEEM) Working Group in their refinement of ACLs for the Pacific Islands' reef fish fisheries.

Non-Commercial Bottomfish Catch in Hawaiʻi

In 2013, PIFSC Social Research Project Manager Cindy Grace-McCaskey and former PIFSC Social Research Project Manager Leila Sievanen began working with members of the Waialua Boat Club (WBC) to develop a cooperative research project geared toward documenting bottomfish catch of small boat fishermen without commercial marine licenses (CMLs). This is important because noncommercial bottomfish catch is currently not explicitly included in the Main Hawaiian Islands Deep 7 Bottomfish stock assessment. All aspects of the project were designed in collaboration with WBC leaders, and data collection began in July 2013. For a one-year period (through June 2014), WBC members (CML-holders and non-CML-holders) provided researchers with fishing trip catch and effort reports, along with questionnaires associated with each trip detailing fishing trip motivations and what they did with their catch (e.g., what percent of the catch was given away to family or friends).