comscore Hawaii fishermen again meet bigeye tuna quota early in central Pacific | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Hawaii fishermen again meet bigeye tuna quota early in central Pacific

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Bigeye tuna lined the floor of the United Fishing Agency’s auction house in May 2009 in Kalihi. Hawaii’s longline fisheries in the central Pacific have reached their bigeye tuna quota much earlier than expected for the second year in a row.

HILO » Hawaii’s longline fisheries in the central Pacific have reached their bigeye tuna quota much earlier than expected for the second year in a row.

Eric Kingma, international fisheries enforcement coordinator for the Western Pacific Fisheries Management Council, said this year’s higher catch rate is in line with last year’s, which he had thought to be “an anomaly” because of El Nino.

“It’s the same number of hooks (in the water),” said Hawaii Longline Association president Sean Martin. Catch rates are 40 percent higher than historical numbers, he said.

This year’s closure of the western and central Pacific longline grounds starts today and runs through the end of 2016. The eastern Pacific region will close Monday to boats larger than 24 meters long.

“Some boats will choose to go fishing (in the eastern region), and for some of the smaller boats, it’s quite a run for them,” Martin told The Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

About three-fourths of the 130 active boats in Hawaii’s longline fleet will still be able to fish in eastern waters.

Last year, the fisheries closed in August, the earliest the region had ever been restricted. The longline fleet returned to the waters two months later, staying below the quotas of U.S. territories in the Pacific.

Officials are still working to authorize that same quota-borrowing process, Kingma said.

Because the longline fleet reached the 3,500-metric ton catch limit early this year, they will have to travel farther to catch bigeye tuna. That could mean that handline fishermen on the Big Island see higher prices for their product.

“The first fish they land is going to be that much older by the time it gets to the block,” said Suisan division manager Kyle Sumner. “On Oahu, what’ll happen is there’ll be more low-quality fish there, so the low price will come up a little bit.”

“Our higher-quality handline fish will get higher prices,” Sumner said.

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  • What’s the sense of practicing conservation if you keep extending the quota? Fish are constantly on the move. Some years will be good, other years may not be so good. Harvesting fish from the ocean isn’t the same as harvesting trees for lumber. We can replant trees to keep the cycle going on land but is anyone restocking the ocean with juvenile big eye tuna besides the tuna?

    What if the fisherman in Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana have a boom year and exceed their annual quota? Will they get the same consideration when asked to borrow from the quota of Hawaii fisherman? Get it while the getting is good seems to take priority over conservation. Is there an update to the “Big Eye Tuna: Five-Year Research Plan” dated Jan 20, 1999?

  • The longliners are over fishing. If all the fish they caught were staying in Hawaii and feeding Hawaii residents, that would be one thing, but most of their catch is exported and that is unacceptable. Now they are threatening that Hawaii residents won’t have any fish in December if they have to abide by present quotas. Seems to me that there is a lot of room for improved regulation and enforcement of quotas.

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