PIFSC researchers publish paper on social and economic effects of the first extended closure of Hawaii Longline Fishing Fleet

by Dawn Kotowicz

“Hawai’i expected to have less local ‘ahi at year end”

– Honolulu Star-Advertiser headline, 10/7/10

Fisheries closures affect more than just fishermen. It is important for researchers and managers to take into account impacts of their decisions on fish dealers, processors, retailers, consumers and associated industries connected to a fishery since each stakeholder group can experience different impacts from management actions.

Social Science researchers Laurie Richmond (Humboldt State University) and Dawn Kotowicz (JIMAR), along with PIFSC economist Justin Hospital recently published a paper in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management on the effects of the first extended closure of the western and central Pacific Ocean bigeye tuna fishery to Hawaii longliners at the end of 2010. In this paper, they examined the effects of the closure to fishermen, the Honolulu Fish Auction, dealers, processors, retailers, and consumers with a rapid assessment of the socioeconomic conditions surrounding the closure.

The paper uses interviews and observations from frequent visits to the Honolulu Fish Auction along with regularly collected fisheries data to report on the impacts of the closure. Sustained participant observation and follow-up interviews provided details, nuance, and information important to complement analysis of fishery statistics.

The main findings of the research are:

  • The closure delivered important socioeconomic impacts to a variety of stakeholders connected to the bigeye tuna fishery including fishermen, dealers, auction staff, support industries and consumers.
  • Bigeye tuna dealers were among those most affected by the closure. Auction dealers were not able to fill some orders during the holiday season, normally a time of high demand and prices, due to low supply of higher quality tuna as a result of the closure. Dealers reported an overall decrease in fish quality.
  • Many fishery and market statistics for the month of the closure fell outside the range of December values of previous years:
    • The number of trips and the amount of bigeye landed were substantially lower
    • Average trip length and the average price of bigeye were substantially higher
    • Fishermen traveled further distances to fish
  • Overall impacts to the bigeye community were not as severe as what had been anticipated at the outset. Several mitigating factors meant this was not a true closure, as US boats could continue to fish for bigeye in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and foreign and dual permitted vessels could still fish in the western and central Pacific Ocean.
  • In response to the closure, regulations have been established which are likely to prevent future closures, although some worry that these regulations may not support conservation of bigeye tuna, domestically or globally.

The abstract of the paper can be viewed here

Richmond L, Kotowicz D, Hospital J. 2015. Monitoring socioeconomic impacts of Hawai’i’s 2010 bigeye tuna closure: Complexities of local management in a global fishery. Ocean & Coastal Management 106: 87-96.

To learn more about the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program please see our website

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