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Fishermen to contribute data for federal bottom-fish study

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    Biologist Benjamin Richards of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration talked about an upcoming study of seven species of Hawaii’s deep-water bottom fish during a news conference on Ford Island on Tuesday.

Federal officials are embarking on a study of seven Hawaii fish species to assess the overall health of their populations.

Researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the start of the upcoming study at a news conference Tuesday on Ford Island. The survey will bring local commercial fishermen and scientists together to get a count of several species of deep-water grouper and snapper, which are popular table fare.

NOAA biologist Benjamin Richards, the survey’s lead researcher, said that, based on their last assessment, the species are not currently doing well, but the bottom dwellers are popular with consumers, especially around the holidays.

“The bottom fish are the Deep Seven, the nice big red fish that you see at nice restaurants, that you see on your nice holiday platters,” Richards said. “Our most recent stock assessment shows that the Deep Seven stock is not overfished. … The data that we are collecting is to help ensure that continues for the future.”

The last survey was done in 2014 using traditional methods. But this is a cooperative research project using new technology and commercial fishermen to create a comprehensive assessment of the bottom fish around the islands. Researchers will use deep-sea video technology as well as data provided by fishermen who will use standardized fishing techniques.

“This is the first operational mission where we will actually be collecting data that goes into the stock assessment,” Richards said.

The commercial fisherman, who are using traditional line-and-hook methods for catching and recording their takes, are already at sea collecting data. The NOAA team will be doing its video analysis later this month, and the team should have conclusions by early next year for the 2018 assessment.

The NOAA team is using a new, lightweight camera system that the team sinks to the bottom of the ocean and leaves for 15 minutes at a time. The system, which has two cameras, can get an accurate count and measurement of the fish that are found. Researchers then use that data to assess the overall population health of the seven target species.

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  • The “Deep Seven” will migrate to the main Hawaiian Islands as soon as their populations in the Papahanaumokuakea rebuilds themselves. Take a step back and allow the fish to propagate. Fish don’t die because they get old. Fish supports other life in the ocean. Nothing is wasted in nature. If the apex predator (man) would allow the fish to develop and grow the harvest will be bountiful. There is a time to fish and a time to wait. This is the old way. Not catch and sell all that you can get. Rather, catch and evaluate the stock populations. Sometimes the fish need protection then it is simple, kapu the fish. Hand off for a while. Kapu was not about greed but about good sound resource management.

  • We are fortunate to have the federal government funding to do these kinds of assessments. I doubt the state would find the resources to ensure a sustainable yield in the future. It is shocking how few funds our legislature allocate for the DLNR.

  • Lets take a look at history on Hawaii’s bottomfish. In the 1950s and 60s fishermen caught twice as much bottomfish per boat compared to today. This is to be expected when a population decline occurs.

    What most fail to recognize are the technological advancements that make today’s fishermen efficient fishing machines that should be capable of quadrupling or better the catches of the 50s and 60s. So why are today’s fishermen catching half of what was caught with primitive gear?

    It will be nice to see some expensive video of isolated areas of abundance that US fisheries managers will use to justify the status quo. No offense towards Americans, but it’s no secret that money drives resource management decisions wherever the United States has control.

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