Mail Surveys Provide Details of Hawaii Bottomfish Fishing Operations and Measure Fishers' Opinions on Fishery Management

PIFSC researchers recently collected socioeconomics data aimed at improving management of the main Hawaiian Islands bottomfish fishery. Economist Justin Hospital and research colleague Courtney Beavers fielded a mail survey to measure the value of bottomfish fishing and gauge fishers' views on fishery management decisions.

Hospital and Beavers mailed survey forms to 1,012 fishers, including 916 holding State of Hawaii commercial marine licenses and 96 with federal non-commercial bottomfish fishing permits. Altogether, fishers returned 516 completed surveys, a response rate of approximately 51%. Fishers from all Hawaii counties participated, as shown in Figure 1. Data in Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources fishing reports verified that the responding commercial fishers were a representative sample of the entire commercial bottomfish fleet. The response from commercial marine license holders (52%) was greater than for non-commercial permit fishermen (44%). And fishers who target the so-called "Deep-7" species - a group of 7 species making up the bulk of catch revenue - were more responsive (61%) than those who fished for other bottomfish species (44%).

The study responses provided details about many important behavioral aspects of the fishery, in terms of both operations and economics; these results will be analyzed and used to describe the economic characteristics and contributions of the fishery in forthcoming publications.

Of equal interest are survey results concerning fishery management, which help us gauge current perceptions of fishers towards past, current and potential future management of the fishery. For example, with respect to management tools currently or recently used, a majority of responding fishermen (54%) thought that a total allowable catch (TAC) limit was needed to maintain a sustainable bottomfish fishery but thought that bottomfish restricted areas are not effective. The 2007 seasonal fishery closure and efforts to regulate non-commercial fishing were viewed as being marginally effective (Figure 2).

Fishers were asked to indicate their level of support for hypothetical TAC management measures. They supported a TAC for Deep-7 species, a separate TAC for commercial and recreational fishers, and island-specific catch limits (Figure 3). Responding fishermen were opposed to establishing a TAC for all bottomfish species combined (Deep-7 plus other species), a TAC limited to commercial fishing, and a TAC that covers multiple years.

In the coming months, Hospital and his team intend to further analyze and publish survey results with the view of reaching a variety of audiences.

Figure 1. Survey participation and response rate for active Deep 7 bottomfish fishers, by county.
Figure 1. Survey participation and response rate for active Deep 7 bottomfish fishers, by county.
Figure 2.  Effectiveness of recent bottomfish management actions as judged by responding fishers.
Figure 2. Effectiveness of recent bottomfish management actions as judged by responding fishers.
Figure 3. Level of support for various TAC program characteristics as indicated by responding fishers.
Figure 3. Level of support for various TAC program characteristics as indicated by responding fishers.