Sustainable seafood is harvested from fisheries that are managed in a way that sustains the use of the fishery and marine ecosystem for future generations. Hawaiʻi’s pelagic fishery management system is exemplary with seafood harvested under a management program that ensures healthy fish populations, is based on the best available science, minimizes by-catch and impacts on the marine ecosystem, and considers the needs of our fishing communities. Working collaboratively, Hawaiʻi’s fishing industry, scientists, and managers operate under a model fishery management system based on sound science and a transparent, inclusive management process committed to sustainability.
A “fishery” refers to the activities involved in catching a species of fish or shellfish, or a group of species that share the same habitat. Hawaiʻi’s commercial fisheries include artisanal fisheries, which are based on traditional or small-scale gear and boats, and larger fisheries which supply the majority of our pelagic (open ocean) seafood species such as tuna (ʻahi) and swordfish. "Hook-and-line" methods are the dominant harvesting methods used by longline, trolling, hand-line, pole & line and bottom fishing vessels to catch a variety of pelagic and deep-water bottomfish species. No nets are used to harvest open ocean (pelagic) or deep-water bottomfish in Hawaiʻi. Only U.S. flagged vessels are allowed to fish within Hawaiʻi’s 200-mile limit and deliver fish directly to Hawaiʻi ports.
Longliners are the main producers of premium quality bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus; ahi), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares; ahi), broadbill swordfish (Xiphias gladius; mekajiki, shutome) and other pelagic (open ocean) fish. The Hawaiʻi Longline fleet is comprised of roughly 100 boats operating beyond fifty nautical miles from Hawaiʻi shores.
Trollers typically fish within fifty nautical miles of Hawaiʻi shores. Trollers produce outstanding-quality Mahimahi (Coryphaena hippurus; common dolphinfish), Ono (Acanthocybium solandri; wahoo), Kajiki (Makaira nigricans; blue marlin) and Nairagi (Tetrapturus audax; striped marlin).
Handline Fishing is a method of fishing that traces back to ancient Hawaiʻi. It is a simple, but highly productive form of fishing. Handlining gear involves working several single lines with baited hooks. Hauling fish –including large tuna well over 200 lbs.—is done by hand in this traditional fishery. Handline fisheries produce summer yellowfin and other tunas.
Pole and line boats produce premium quality Aku (Katsuwonus pelamis; skipjack), an island favorite for raw fish preparations. This fishery involves two different types of fishing: the first to capture live bait and the second to catch skipjack tuna. Chumming aku schools with live bait keeps them near the boat. Fishermen then use feathered lures with barbless hooks attached to bamboo poles to catch the fish.
Bottomfishing boats produce Hawaiʻi’s sought after deepwater species such as Onaga (Etelis coruscans; red snapper, ʻulaʻula koaʻe), Opakapaka (Pristipomoides filamentosus; pink snapper), and Hapuʻupuʻu (Epinephelus quernus; Hawaiian sea bass) and mid-water species Ukupalu (Aprion virescens; blue-green snapper) others. Bottomfishing is a highly skilled form of fishing that has been practiced throughout the length of the Hawaiian archipelago for centuries. Bottomfishing methods using handlines and baited hooks originated with the ancient Hawaiians but have been modernized with the introduction of small-mechanized reels and line pullers. Underwater chumming practices of the ancient Hawaiians continue in the present-day fishery.