Hawaii Archipelago

Fishing in Hawaii has its roots in many of the different cultures and ethnicities that make up the islands. Native Hawaiians depended on ocean resources for both sustenance and cultural activities. Immigrants brought to Hawaii to work on the plantations also brought with them their own fishing methods and ocean culture. From the native fishermen with a torch and spear to the large vessels fishing on the high seas, throughout its history, fishing has played a vital role in the culture and economy of Hawaii.


After contact with Europe and America, Hawaii became an important port for provisioning and trading for the whaling industry. With the availability of new materials such as iron and steel instead of bone or wood, fishermen were able to modify their fishing methods and become more successful while still maintaining their cultural rituals. The excess of catch and a new cash economy during this time led to the opportunities for Hawaiians, and later foreign immigrants, to participate in this new economy through commercial fishing.

After the contracts of the Chinese, Portuguese, Filipino and Japanese immigrants brought to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations expired, many became commercial fishermen, particularly the Japanese workers that came from coastal areas and had this expertise. With them, these immigrants brought new ideas and advanced fishing techniques unbeknownst to the islands including the sampan fishing vessel, which eventually led to a major pelagic fishery in Hawaii for tuna.

As fishermen and researchers explored farther out to sea and to different parts of the archipelago, they made discoveries that would lead to new fisheries. In the 1960s, researchers discovered a pink coral bed off of Oahu and fishermen started to harvest from this bed over the next three years using dredges. At the same time, a small group of divers were harvesting black coral using SCUBA. By the end of the decade, the precious coral fishery was producing over $2 million in retail sales. In the 1970s, scientists discovered substantial quantities of lobsters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Right after the discovery, a crustacean fishery started up with lobster fishermen, primarily from the Pacific Northwest, employing advanced technology and equipment to harvest lobsters from the NWHI. This area also began to see an increase in bottomfish fishermen looking for snappers, groupers and jacks.

An increase in the harvest of these species opened up the restaurant market for fishermen and in turn expanded the bottomfish fishery in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Today, fishing continues to play a central role in Hawaii with seafood consumption estimated at approximately two to three times higher than the rest of the U.S. While up to 75% of the seafood consumed is imported, there is still a demand for local catch. The local fishing is a mix of commercial, non-commercial, and subsistence fisheries targeting a variety of species.

For the purposes of the Council’s management, the fisheries are divided Pelagic and Island Fisheries. Pelagic Fisheries include longline fishing, trolling and handlines that target pelagic species such as tunas, mahimahi, billfish, and other deep sea fish. The Island Fisheries are made up of the bottomfish (deep 7 and non-deep 7), coral reef ecosystems, crustaceans, and precious corals.

Pelagic Fisheries Status

Compared to the other regions, Hawai`i has a diverse fishery sector which includes shallow- and deep-set longline, Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) troll and handline, offshore handline, and the aku boat (pole and line) fisheries.

The Hawai`i deep-set longline fishery is by far the most important economically, accounting in 2020 for about 89% percent of the estimated ex-vessel value of the total commercial fish landings in the State.

The MHI troll was the second largest fishery in Hawai`i at 5% of the catch and revenue, respectively.

The shallow-set longline, MHI handline, aku boat, offshore handline fisheries and other gear types made up the remainder of the composition of the fishery.

Hawai`i commercial fisheries landed 30,399,000 pounds of pelagic species in 2020, a decrease of 17% from the previous year. The deep-set longline fishery targeted bigeye and yellowfin tuna. This was the largest of all pelagic fisheries and its total catch comprised 89% (27,061,000 pounds) of all pelagic fisheries. For more on the current status of the Pelagic Fisheries in Hawaii click on the pelagic annual report button below.

Island Fisheries Status


In 2020, the Main Hawaiian Island Deep 7 bottomfish fishery was characterized by decreasing trends in fishing effort and participation relative to measured averages. Though the number of fish caught and the pounds landed also decreased, effort and participation were lower and the CPUE for the fishery decreased relative to short- and long-term averages and lower than each of the past five years.

The Deep 7 catch was mostly from deep sea handline. The non-Deep 7 bottomfish fishery was dominated by uku (Aprion virescens) with nearly 48,000 lbs caught in 2020, which was still lower than the short and long-term averages.

Crustacean Fisheries

In 2020, the crustacean fishery saw an decrease in participation, effort and pounds caught below the short and long term average. Considering the crustacean MUS evaluated, participation and catch values in the fishery for deepwater shrimp (Heterocarpus laevigatus) were not disclosed due to data confidentiality despite having shown an increase in catch and CPUE last year. Kona crab fishery statistics were down in 2020. There were 12 commercial license holders that reported 42 trips landing 4,200 pounds of Kona crab. The estimated CPUE increased to 100.01 pounds per trip for 2020.

Non-Commercial Fisheries

Hawaii’s non-commercial fisheries (including recreational, subsistence, artisanal, sustenance, customary exchange, etc.) is mainly comprised of small boats that have diverse fishing activities and motivation. Fishing is mainly for pelagic species but also includes bottomfish and coral reef fish. Fish caught in this fishery feeds families, community members and visitors. The State of Hawaii conducts the Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey.

In 2019, NOAA Fisheries estimated that the Hawaii non-commercial fisheries took nearly 3.5 million trips and caught more than 12 million fish The most commonly caught non-bait species were yellowstripe goatfish (‘oama, weke ʻā), mackeral scad (akule), convict tang (manini), bluefin trevally (ʻōmilu), and yellowfin tuna (‘ahi). By weight, the largest harvests were yellowfin tuna (ahi), skipjack tuna (aku), dolphinfish (mahimahi), wahoo (ono), and blue marlin (a’u). (source: https://media.fisheries.noaa.gov/2021-05/FUS2019-FINAL-webready-2.3.pdf)

Ecosystem Components

National Standard 1 allows for the Regional Fishery Management Councils to identify species, species complexes, and stocks that would constitute Ecosystem Components (81 FR 71858, October 18, 2016). Ecosystem Components are species that contributes to the ecological functions of the island fisheries ecosystem. These species are retained in the Hawaii FEP for monitoring purposes and are protected associated with its role in the ecosystem and to address other ecosystem issues.

Coral Reef Ecosystem Components

The coral reef ecosystem component species (CRECS) finfish fishery in 2020, in general, exhibited a decline in fishing participation, effort, and catch from short and long-term average values.

The CRECS fishery was dominated by inshore handline landing coastal pelagic species, followed by purse seine, lay gill net, and seine net landing other schooling and coastal pelagic species. Though catch and CPUE were on par with short-term averages, they were much less than the values noted for long-term averages.


Precious Coral Fisheries

Deepwater Precious Coral fisheries in Hawaii remained dormant in 2020 and shallower black coral fishery numbers are confidential.

For more on the current status of Islands Fisheries in Hawaii, see the

Fishery Issues

Fisheries in the Hawaii Archipelago are dynamic and always changing. Click here to see which issues the Council is working on in the Hawaii fisheries and what other fishery issues are impacting Hawaii fisheries.

Press Release – Existing Fishing Regulations Sufficient to Meet Proposed PRI Sanctuary Goals, Science Advisors Say (13 September 2023)

HONOLULU (13 September 2023) The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) at its meeting today discussed potential fishing regulations for the proposed Pacific Remote Islands (PRI) National Marine Sanctuary designation. The Office of National Marine...

Press Release – Council Science Advisors Weigh In on American Samoa Bottomfish Catch Limits, EM in Pacific Islands Region (12 September 2023)

HONOLULU (12 September 2023) The Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) today reviewed options to sustainably fish for American Samoa bottomfish species caught in federal waters 3-200 miles offshore from 2024 to 2026. In their discussion, SSC members...

Press Release – Western Pacific Scientists to Advise Fishery Management Council on American Samoa Bottomfish, Pacific Remote Islands Sanctuary (8 September 2023)

HONOLULU (8 September 2023) Scientific advisors to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council will meet Sept. 12-14, 2023, to provide advice and comments on American Samoa bottomfish stocks, the proposed Pacific Remote Islands (PRI) sanctuary, U.S....

Summer 2023 Pacific Island Fishery News

Click here for printable PDF.   Newsletter articles listed in order 1 - Council and AS Leaders Frustrated by Continued Fishery Management Through Sanctuaries and Monuments in the Pacific 8 - Rising Tides and Changing Times: Climate Change in American Samoa 2 - Federal...

Request for Proposals – Coordinate Community Engagement on Issues Related to Hawaii’s Small-boat Fisheries (proposals due by Sept. 8, 2023)

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Council), established through Congress under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) of 1976, has the responsibility for preparing management plans for those fisheries within its...

Western Pacific Region Status of the Fisheries 2022

To monitor and evaluate fishery performance, the Council publishes annual reports for each of its five fishery ecosystem-based management plans. The Council’s Western Pacific Region Status of the Fisheries 2022 report is now available. The publication highlights some...

Green Sea Turtle Critical Habitat Proposed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam and CNMI; Public Comment Period through October 17, 2023

On July 18, 2023, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published proposed rules to designate critical habitat for populations of green sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). USFWS and NMFS will...

Press Release – Western Pacific Council Challenged by NOAA Prohibition on Commercial Fishing for Proposed Pacific Remote Islands Sanctuary (3 July 2023)

HONOLULU (3 July 2023) Congresswoman Amata Radewagen from American Samoa expressed her deep concern regarding the lack of consultation with the U.S. territories affected by the NOAA proposed sanctuary in the Pacific Remote Islands. In a video message during the...

Press Release: American Samoa Governor Stresses Importance of Fisheries and Respect to the US Territory (28 June 2023)

UTULEI, AMERICAN SAMOA (28 June 2023) “You must be mindful of the decisions you make…so that the interests of small fishing communities are not disregarded” was the main message heard in the remarks of the Honorable Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who opened the 195th...

FR Notice: Marine Conservation Plan for the Pacific Insular Area for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (June 20, 2023)

AGENCY:National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION:Notice of agency decision. SUMMARY:NMFS announces approval of a Marine Conservation Plan (MCP) for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana...

Fishery Ecosystem Plans

The MSA authorizes fishery management councils to create fishery management plans (FMPs). Since the 1980s, the Council has managed fisheries throughout the Western Pacific through separate species-based FMPs. However, the Council began moving towards an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management and restructured its management framework from species-based FMPs to place-based Fishery Ecosystem Plans (FEPs). The FEP establishes the framework under which the Council will manage fishery resources. An overall Pacific Pelagic FEP was created because of the migratory nature of the pelagic species. Both the Pelagic and Hawaii FEPs were approved in 2009 and codified in 2010. These FEPs have been, and continue to be, amended as necessary.

Marine Conservation Plans

Marine Conservation Plans (MCPs) are required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Section 204(4)) detailing the use of funds collected by the Secretary of Commerce pursuant to fishery agreements (e.g. Pacific Insular Area fishery agreement, quota transfer agreement, etc.).  These MCPs should be consistent with the fishery ecosystem plan, identify conservation and management objectives, and prioritize planned marine conservation projects.  The PRIA MCP is developed by the Council under MSA Section 204(7), the Western Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Fund (SFF).  The SFF provides funds received by the Secretary of Commerce under a Pacific Insular Area fishery agreement or contributions received in support of conservation and management objectives for areas other than American Samoa, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands.    Click below for the PRIA’s latest Marine Conservation Plan


The Council has done a lot of work in the Hawaii Archipelago fisheries from research to workshops, to outreach and education. Below are some of the completed projects and publications.

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