How much does a longline fishing trip cost?

Since 2004, the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program – in collaboration with the NOAA Observer Program managed by the Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) – has maintained an ongoing trip-level economic data collection program for Hawaii longline fisheries. The establishment of this routine economic data collection program provides timely information to support management of these fisheries. Economic data collected are used for (but not limited to): 1) Assessing the economic viability and stability of the fisheries; 2) Measuring the economic importance to local economies and the value of fisheries; and 3) Analyzing the economic impacts of various policy options.

Trip costs for Hawaii longline tuna fishing trips, 2004-2015

An average tuna trip cost about $25,500 in 2015, excluding labor costs. Over the period 2004-2015, the average trip cost in the Hawaii tuna longline fishery nearly doubled (in nominal value), from $13,800 per trip to $25,500 per trip, due primarily to increases in fuel prices. In 2004, fuel costs made up about 46% of total trip costs, whereas it comprised 54% in 2015. Average tuna trip costs have increased gradually over time, peaking in 2012. In 2012, the average yearly fuel price as reported by fishermen reached a high of $3.90 per gallon (average consumer prices as reported by AAA was $4.78/gallon at the time), which comprised nearly 58% of the non-labor trip costs. The recent drop in fuel prices during 2015 resulted in decreased overall fishing costs in 2015 relative to prior years (16% lower than the 2012 peak).


Trip costs for Hawaii longline swordfish fishing trips, 2005-2015

Swordfish fishing trips are usually more expensive than tuna fishing trips, even when trips are carried out by the same vessel, mostly due to longer trip length and subsequently a higher proportion of fuel cost in its trip expenditures. On average, the cost of a swordfish trip is approximately double that of a tuna fishing trip. In 2015, the average swordfish trips cost $42,200. In 2012 when the average yearly fuel price was at its peak, an average swordfish trip cost over $57,600, while a tuna trip cost about $30,700 during the same year. Similar to tuna trips, with the substantial drop of fuel price in 2015, the average trip costs for swordfish fishing decreased relative to recent years (27% less than the peak costs in 2012).


More data products based the data collection program led Dr. Minling Pan, can be found on the PIFSC website, click for:

Hawaii longline

American Samoa longline

For more information about this research or to comment on survey results, feel free to contact us:

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

Does Holding a Commercial Fishing License Make a Fisherman Fish Commercially?

PIFSC Socioeconomics Program economists, Dr. Hing Ling Chan and Dr. Minling Pan, in collaboration with the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, recently completed a study to examine the economic and social characteristics of the Hawaii small boat fishery. In 2014, they conducted a survey of 1,796 fishermen that held a State of Hawaii commercial marine license (CML) and reported fish sales in the past 12 months. Nearly half of the fishermen (47%) responded to the survey and this study presents a wide range of information to further our understanding of the fishery – especially how fishermen’s motivations are associated with levels of fishing activity, catch distribution, and fishing costs.


Figure 1. Survey response distribution: How do you define yourself as a fisherman?

Results from this survey build upon past efforts to describe the diversity of fisher motivations and how they relate to behavior in the Hawaii small boat fishery.  Fishermen were asked to self-classify themselves and motivations varied widely as shown in Figure 1. This study finds that fisher motivations have tight linkages with their fishing behaviors, including the number of fishing trips taken in a year, total landings, catch rate (catch per trip), and what fishermen do with their catch (consume at home, give away, sell, etc.)

Compared to self-classified “non-commercial” fishermen, fishers identifying themselves as “full-time” or “part-time” commercial fishermen had more intensive fishing activities in terms of number of fishing trips and annual fish landings.  However, they did not sell 100% of their catches.  A substantial portion of their landings, 21% and 27%, respectively, were retained for home consumption and customary exchange.  These findings support past research findings that emphasized the vital social role small boat commercial fishermen play in local communities.  On the other hand, self-classified “non-commercial” fishermen also sold a substantial portion of their catches.  For example, fishers that identified with “recreational expense” and “purely recreational” classifications sold 52% and 28% of their total landings, respectively.  The figure below illustrates the catch distribution by different types of fisher classification.


Figure 2. Distribution of catch, by fisher self-classification

Another primary goal of this study was to update our understanding on the costs of fishing and to detail current levels of investment in the fishery.  During 2013-2014, small boat fishing trip costs averaged approximately $269, which is 36% higher than an inflation-adjusted $198 in a previous cost-earnings study of the Hawaii small boat pelagic fishery, fielded in 2007-2008.  The study also found trip costs varied by gear type. Survey responses indicated that trolling trips cost the most at $292 while boat-based spearfishing trips cost the least at $159.  Regardless of the gear type, fuel costs (boat and truck) account for more than half of total trip costs. While trip costs were similar across most fisher classifications, full-time commercial fishermen reported 46% higher trolling trip costs and 83% higher bottomfish trip costs when compared with other fishermen.


Figure 3. Average boat-based trip costs, by gear: 2014

In addition to trip costs, small boat fishermen incur significant fixed costs to fish throughout the year including: boat and trailer repair and maintenance, gear replacement and repair, boat insurance, mooring, loan payments, financial services, fees, and other expenses.  The survey found that annual fixed costs averaged $5,557 with the median of $3,364.

chan4A brochure of key preliminary findings has been published and distributed to all the small boat fishermen who received the survey.

Click here to download a copy of the brochure.

More detailed information, including a comprehensive social and economic profile of the fleet and cost-earnings analysis, will be documented in forthcoming NOAA technical reports. Stay tuned!

For more information about this research or to comment on survey results, feel free to contact us:

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

How Much Does it Cost a Fishery to Save a Single Sea Turtle?

by Minling Pan

If you ever wondered how much it costs a fishery to save a sea turtle, check out this new study conducted by Dr. Minling Pan of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Socioeconomic program and Dr. Shichao Li, formerly of the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaiʻi.

According to their study, the answer to this question is quite straightforward: a fishery’s cost of saving a turtle depends on the rate of sea turtle bycatch (unintended and unwanted catch) in the fishery. In short, the higher the bycatch rate, the lower the cost to save one sea turtle (through regulating the fishery to reduce sea turtle interactions).

This finding suggests that it would be more cost effective if sea turtle conservation efforts or regulations — such as seasonal or area closures, sea turtle caps, or effort caps — take place in fisheries where bycatch rates are high. Given the transboundary nature of sea turtle and swordfish populations, these results provide insights into opportunities for fishery managers to explore win-win solutions in promoting sea turtle conservation while maintaining sustainable fisheries.

Measuring the cost of saving sea turtles

To measure the cost of saving one sea turtle in a fishery, Drs. Pan and Li developed a spatial and temporal model of sea turtle interactions the Hawaiʻi swordfish fishery. This model enables prediction of sea turtle interaction rates associated with each unit of swordfish fishing effort and the economic returns of the fishing effort by area and time.

They used a Generalized Additive Model approach, developed by PIFSC colleagues Kobayashi and Polovina (2005), to estimate sea turtle interactions associated with fishing effort in various seasons and locations. They added to the model economic returns associated with fishing effort by estimating a fishing trip cost function using ongoing trip cost data collected through a collaborative effort between the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program and the Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO) Observer Program.

courtesy: PIRO Observer Program

courtesy: PIRO Observer Program

The analysis compares the costs of saving one sea turtle across international fisheries with various sea turtle bycatch rates, and the team examined the trade-offs between saving one sea turtle and the economic returns of fishing operations in different seasons and different areas.

The study found that between 1994 and 2003, the Hawaiʻi swordfish fishery interacted with one loggerhead sea turtle for every 23,000 pounds of swordfish caught. This swordfish catch would be valued at approximately $50,000 in 2015 swordfish prices. After NOAA Fisheries imposed new regulations on gear and bait in April 2004, the sea turtle bycatch rate for the fishery dropped significantly.

Thus, in recent years, the fishery has interacted with one loggerhead for every 238,000 pounds of swordfish caught. This amount of catch is worth $520,000 in 2015 swordfish prices. Consequently, the marginal cost to a fishery, in terms of lost revenues, for saving an additional sea turtle is higher when the sea turtle bycatch rate is low, the researchers found.

If you are interested in finding out more detailed information, click the link below to read the newly published paper:

Evaluation of Fishing Opportunities under Sea Turtle Interaction Limits – A Decision Support Model for Hawaii-based Longline Swordfish, Xiphias gladius, Fishery Management.

For more information about this and other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our websitebrowse recent blog posts, or contact us by email:

Researchers assess economic productivity for Hawaii longline fishery

image1 (1) (1)PIFSC Socioeconomics Program researcher Dr. Minling Pan, in collaboration with Northeast Fisheries Science Center economist Dr. John Walden, recently published a study measuring productivity changes in the Hawaii longline fishery in the journal Marine Policy. Fisheries productivity is the result of many factors, including exogenous and endogenous elements, such as regulation and stock condition. Understanding changes in productivity and the factors affecting that change is important to fishery management and a sustainable fishing industry. This work represents the first study to measure productivity change in the Hawaii longline fishery, the largest fresh bigeye tuna and swordfish producer in the United States.

A biomass quantity index is constructed to disentangle biomass impacts in a pelagic environment in order to arrive at an “unbiased” productivity metric. This is particularly important in the Hawaii longline fishery where catches rely mostly on transboundary (shared) stocks with little control on the total amount of extraction. As resource depletion of the transboundary stocks occurs, productivity losses may follow if less output is obtained from the same input usage, or more inputs are used to extract the same catch level from the fishery.

Using a Lowe productivity index, productivity change in the Hawaii longline fleet between 2000 and 2012 is measured in this study.Overall, unadjusted (“biased”) productivity in the Hawaii longline fishery showed a declining trend since 2005. However, once biomass change was used to adjust the index values, the negative productivity change turned positive (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Unbiased and biased Lowe index for tuna trips 2002 to 2012 (base year = 2005)

Figure 1. Unbiased and biased Lowe index for tuna trips 2002 to 2012 (base year = 2005)

While bigeye tuna biomass has trended down in recent years, fishing productivity has improved, as the unbiased productivity index (the adjusted Lowe index) went up steadily from 0.84 in 2009 to 1.36 in 2012. During the study time period, especially since 2010, analytical results show that tuna fishing became more productive in terms of endogenous productivity (e.g., fishing technology). Such an improvement of endogenous productivity has offset the negative impact of the bigeye stock depletion and kept the fishery stable in terms of output to input ratio. Without such an improvement in productivity, the tuna fishery would have had much poorer performance due to the depletion of the shared fish resources. Finally, the study compares productivity change under different fishing technologies and finds evidence that tuna fishing seems to be more efficient compared to swordfish fishing.

For more information about this and other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our websitebrowse recent blog posts, or contact us by email:

Hawaii small boat socioeconomic survey receives high response from fishing community

The NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Socioeconomics Program conducted a study of Hawaii’s small-boat commercial fishing fleet in the summer of 2014. The survey was designed to examine economic and cultural aspects of small-boat fishing and to estimate the ways in which the small-boat fleet contributes to Hawaii’s economy.  This study is particularly important because it will provide resource managers with the kind of information that is needed for management to ensure a healthy future for marine fisheries around the Hawaiian Islands.

The study was carried out by PIFSC economist Minling Pan and JIMAR researcher Michel Hing Ling Chan. The survey was mailed to 1800 State of Hawaii commercial marine license (CML) holders and an online survey option was also available.  A total of 828 responses were received, of which 94 (11%) were completed online. We appreciate the overwhelming participation and support from the small boat fishing community. Currently, we are processing the data and working on the summary and analysis.

We will keep you posted on the results and preliminary findings should be posted on the PIFSC website by the end of 2015. Fishermen who indicated interest in a copy of the results will receive the final report by mail. For questions about the study, or to request results from this project contact Dr. Minling Pan at (808-725-5349) or by email (

To keep up with this and other research from the PIFSC Socioeconomics Program visit our website or browse recent blog posts