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A school of manini. Photo credit Jhana Young

The monetary, social and cultural importance of Hawaiʻi nearshore fisheries has been examined by researchers in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management (NREM). The study argues that fully appreciating the multitude of benefits the nearshore fishery provides to society is a crucial step towards sustainable management.

The multi-year study tracked commercial and noncommercial reef-fish value chains, which was conducted as a collaboration between researchers in the College of Tropcial Agriculture and Human Resources and Conservation International Hawaiʻi. The study, “Follow that fish: Uncovering the hidden blue economy in coral reef fisheries,” was published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Small-scale fisheries support the well-being of millions of people around the world—even in a well-developed economy such as Hawaiʻi’s, they provide important economic as well as social benefits. The total annual monetary value of the fishery is approximately $10.3 to $16.4 million. The non-commercial fishery in particular provides huge benefits to the community—non-commercial catch is around three times reported commercial catch and is worth $4.2 to $10 million more annually.

However, the full benefits to Hawaiʻi also include the potential to provide over 7 million meals a year as well as less tangible but just as important benefits such as the perpetuation of culture, community cohesion and sharing knowledge with the next generation.

Ensuring these benefits can be supported into the future is an important consideration for sustainability.
—Shanna Grafeld

“Coral reef fisheries are often underappreciated, but our study reveals the important benefits they provide to the community,” said co-author Shanna Grafeld, a research associate in NREM at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. “Ensuring these benefits can be supported into the future is an important consideration for sustainability.”

The paper discusses a range of potential management strategies acting at different points in society, including streamlining the value chain to minimize waste and improve transparency in commercial fishing operations. Non-commercial fishing is more diffuse and harder to manage, but highlighting and prioritizing the many benefits the community receives from fishing may be a positive way forward.

“Fishers often feel demonized when regulations fall heavily on them,” Grafeld explains. “But there are options to promote sustainability at all levels in the supply chain, from helping fish dealers minimize waste and educating consumers on choosing sustainable seafood to encouraging pono fishing and a mālama kai ethic.”

Acknowledgement is made to NOAA for funding support of this research. This research was made possible by NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy Award #NA15NMF4270332 to Conservation International Hawaiʻi.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. This is a very good article. However, it should pursue opening the Papahanaumokuakea area for bottom and troll fishing by a limited number of local fishermen. The fishery would be controlled by Western Pacific Management Council. This area is capable of providing a significant renewable resource simulating the economy, elimination of much of the foreign fresh fish imports. Limit the number of permits to 4 with half of them set aside for Native Hawaiians. I personally fished this area for 10 years and never had any interaction with endangered species. Please consider this and contact me of WPFMC if you need further information.

    I believe that the negative statements regarding fishing this area come from those with little or no knowledge of this area and its potential as a safe renewable resource.

  2. All of this sounds super righteous, if there is anything that I could do to help out with anything at all please let me know. Mahalo

  3. Hi,

    I live in Maui.

    I have aquestion about the Iao Valley Heritage Gardens Koi ponds:

    I have found no fresh water running into the ponds since the storm and I have:

    Asked the contracted workers why the pond is so dirty and no water running and

    Contacted park and rec several times with other citizens.

    Turned water on and found they had cut the spickets off them afterwards.

    I called the maui news finally after two months of seeing no activity except cleaning the Japanese pondhich has no fish

    There are about 15-25 fish and now baby koi’s in the pond

    I am dong a final project for bio 105 on Hypothesis fish are lethargic and dying due to lack of clean and fresh water running into ponds and no maintenance

    Any ideas or help is appreciated to see how we can save the fish

    Thanks Ronda

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