Quota troubles for Hawaii’s longline fisherman impacts ahi prices

Local News

A government council says Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet is suffering a big economic impact because of quotas and that in turn means consumers are paying a high price at the market.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council says about one-fourth of the 145 longline boats in Hawaii haven’t been able to catch ahi, or bigeye tuna.

It says arbitrary quotas have them tied to the docks and accumulating debt.

The council also says the rest of the Hawaii fleet is being forced out of its primary fishing grounds in the Western and Central Pacific and have to travel farther into the Eastern Pacific.

Part of the problem some say is that young ahi are incidental catches for other fishers.

“For big-eye for the long-liners that’s a target species, that what they go out to make money for, for the purse-seiners, it’s an incidental catch, they’re there to catch skip jack. It’s just by chance, by an unhappy chance that they catch big-eye, but they catch a lot,” said senior scientist Paul Dalzell with the Western Pacific Regional Fishing Management Council.

And limited supply means higher prices.

“Not being able to find fish, coupled with the fact that you have to travel far, will always disrupt business and we have been seeing that on the auction floor when we’re not clearly having the optimum amount of seafood landed in Hawaii,” said auction manger Michael Goto with the United Fishing Agency.

The council says it will be part of meetings next week to strategize to have the U.S. commit to protect the Hawaii longline fishery.

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