Hawaii non-commercial fishermen describe attitudes and preferences towards management and ecosystem health

During the summer of 2015, the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program in collaboration with Impact Assessment, Inc., completed a survey to better understand what matters most to Hawaii’s non-commercial fishermen. The survey results provide valuable insights from the non-commercial fishing community into their: (a) motivations for fishing, (b) preferences towards fisheries management strategies, (c) satisfaction with Hawaii fisheries management, and (d) perceptions towards ecosystem conditions and threats to the marine environment.

There were three primary groups of fishermen that participated in the survey: (1) vessel owners that indicated that they use their vessel for non-commercial fishing, (2) fishermen that have registered with the National Saltwater Angler Registry, and (3) shore-based fishermen who volunteered to participate in the survey through outreach efforts. A total of 3500 surveys were mailed to fishermen across the State of Hawaii between June and July 2015, and 1180 surveys were returned.

dietFishing for food was one of the most important reasons cited for fishing, and 68% of survey respondents consider catching enough fish for home/personal consumption to be the most important aspect of a fishing trip. Nearly 80% of fishermen indicated that they always or often share catch with family and/or friends and approximately 36% of respondents indicated that their catch is extremely important or very important to their regular diet.

In considering non-commercial fisheries management, a majority of respondents (% of fishermen) think the most important fishery management objectives should be to:

  • Ensure adequate amounts of fish are allowed to mature and spawn (73%)
  • Ensure future generations will have high quality fishing opportunities (68%)
  • Restore depleted fish stocks (64%)

However, respondents were generally not satisfied with current fisheries policies to protect fishery resources. More than 40% of respondents were not satisfied with current monitoring and enforcement of non-commercial fishing regulations, and felt managing agencies were not doing enough to protect declining fish populations and restoring fish stocks that have been depleted. The majority of respondents preferred management strategies that included establishing minimum size and bag limits for certain species and protecting and restoring fish habitat that has been degraded. Respondents were also largely in favor of seasonal closures and increased restrictions on select gear types. Over 40% of respondents ranked non-commercial fishermen as having the least amount of influence over fisheries policy and as being very concerned about the potential socio-cultural impacts of fisheries regulations.

FishHealth_2015Fishermen provided diverse responses when asked to rate the current health of various Hawaii fisheries. When considering fisheries overall in the State of Hawaii 25% reported the health as Good with 17% reporting Poor, although the most common response was Fair (39%). However, there was general concern that fish populations are not heading in the right direction.


The most severe threats to Hawaii’s marine ecosystem, according to a majority of survey respondents are; overfishing in commercial fisheries (68%), marine habitat loss and degradation(60%), and run-off and sedimentation (55%).

Hawaii non-commercial fishermen demonstrated a strong commitment to providing input to fisheries management through the completion of this survey. Nearly 35% of survey respondents provided additional comments when afforded the opportunity at the end of the questionnaire, and 49% of fishermen requested results from this research. Additionally, 40% of survey respondents requested for NOAA Fisheries to maintain their contact information on file for use in future non-commercial fisheries research in Hawaii.

A manuscript providing state-level survey results has been completed and is currently in review with PIFSC editorial, while a report providing more refined summaries for subgroups of the population (county, boat vs. shore, age groups, etc.) is under development. Survey reports will be made available to the fishing community upon publication.

Click here to download a brochure with select preliminary state-level survey results.

For more information about this research or to comment on survey results, feel free to contact us: pifsc.socioeconomics@noaa.gov

For more information about other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our website or browse recent blog posts.

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