Press Release – Reviewers Approve Stock Assessment for Uku (Hawai‘i Gray Snapper), Emphasize the Need for Accurate Recreational Catch Data (28 Feb. 2020)

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Uku (Aprion virescens), the Hawaiian gray snapper or green jobfish, is targeted by fishermen when the deep-water snapper season slows. Photo courtesy of Bruce Mundy.

HONOLULU (28 Feb. 2020) In Hawai‘i, consumers prefer deep-water snappers for their red and pink color, which has cultural significance especially around the winter holidays. However, in May and June, fishermen switch to target the less desired, but just as delicious, gray snapper, known locally as uku (Aprion virescens). During these months, uku are found in abundance at Penguin Bank, located between Moloka‘i and O‘ahu, where they likely aggregate to spawn.

The good news about uku in the main Hawaiian Islands is the stock is healthy. In fact, scientists at NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) recently determined that Hawai‘i fishermen can continue to harvest uku without harming the stock’s ability to maintain its maximum sustainable yield. The PIFSC stock assessment for uku was reviewed this week by the Western Pacific Stock Assessment Review (WPSAR) panel, which ascertained that the assessment is sound and based on the best scientific information available.

Erik Franklin, PhD, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and chair of the WPSAR panel, presented the results today in Honolulu to a group of interested scientists, fishery managers and fishermen at the office of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, where the five-day review was held. The WPSAR panel also included Yong Chen, PhD, University of Maine, and Yan Jiao, PhD, Virginia Tech. Gray snapper is a species managed offshore by the Council in both Hawai‘i and American Samoa, where it is known as asoama.

The review contained recommendations to improve future stock assessments. “It can’t be emphasized enough, the importance of getting accurate recreational data for future assessments,” Franklin said.

Marc Nadon, one of the PIFSC stock assessment scientists, said the uku assessment utilized commercial catch data from 1948 to 2018. Since recreational catch data for the fishery is available only since about 2003, the scientists used data from 2003 to 2007 and applied it to the human population trend in Hawai‘i to recreate the noncommercial data for the same period as the commercial data.

Recreational catch in Hawai‘i is captured voluntarily for state waters (0 to 3 miles offshore) through the Hawai‘i Marine Recreational Fishing Survey, run by the State of Hawai‘i, with assistance from NOAA Fisheries. In federal waters (3 to 200 miles offshore), noncommercial permits and reporting are required for bottomfish but only a few fishermen have complied.

Uku is found in depths of 0 to 600 feet and is caught mainly by deep-sea and inshore handline and by trolling. Look for it in the markets this spring as an alternative to mahimahi and ono (wahoo) while you wait for ahi (yellowfin tuna) to return to the islands in the summer.

For more information, contact the Council at (808) 522-8220 or by email at info.wpcouncil@noaa.gov.

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