Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the headings below to learn more about Hawaii Seafood.
Why should I buy Hawaii Seafood?
- It tastes great and it’s healthy for you and your family.
- It supports a local industry that’s vital to our community, culture and sustainable future.
- It’s sustainable seafood produced by Hawaii’s hard-working fishermen who are among the best-managed and most responsible fishermen in the world.
Why is buying local seafood important?
- Only a small percentage of the total food supply in Hawaii is produced here.
- Fishing is one food system that we excel at. Hawaii Seafood is known around the world and visitors enjoy it as much as locals.
- Buying Hawaii Seafood supports local fishermen, their families and community.
- Buying local “anything” helps keep our hard-earned money cycling through the local economy instead of flowing out.
What makes Hawaii Seafood sustainable?
- Sustainable seafood comes from well-managed, responsible fisheries.
- Hawaii’s fisheries are among the most intensively studied, monitored and managed fisheries in the world.
- Our longline fishery has a very high score of 94% compliance with the only global standard for Responsible Fisheries, the FAO Code of Conduct.
- Our management system is science-based, precautionary, transparent and inclusive.
- It’s an exemplary management system and a model for sustainable fisheries.
Why is the auction system important to the sustainability of the Hawaii fishing industry?
- An auction system brings the daily fish landings together with the market demand.
- Fishery waste (at-sea discards) occurs when the value of fish is low.
- Fishery waste as spoilage occurs when fish are not handled properly
- Open-bidding on each fish allows the market to determine the value of the fish.
- Fishery waste is minimized because of the economic incentives.
- It’s a system that has worked in Hawaii for decades.
- The auction plays a pivotal role in working with our fishermen, not against them.
- This is not only in marketing their fish, but in seafood quality and seafood safety.
- The auction is able to pay fishermen immediately so they can get back out fishing.
Tuna is caught by many countries in the Pacific, what makes Hawaii tuna special?
- Hawaii produces some of the best quality tuna and swordfish in the world.
- Quality-wise, our attention to quality is intense.
- Our fishing vessels have adopted best practices for fish quality at sea.
- Our auction system rewards high quality with better prices, so fishermen are compensated for attention to quality.
- Fish handling standards in Hawaii at sea and on shore ensure quality and safe seafood.
- Sustainability-wise, our fisheries are sustainable because of science-based management and responsible fishing.
How do the fishermen and the auction work together?
- All our fishermen are registered with the auction. We know who they are and how they handle their fish.
- Our fishermen sign letters of assurance that they followed safe fish handling practices at sea.
- A vessel’s catch is unloaded based on time of arrival to the dock.
- Unloading begins in the early morning hours shortly after midnight.
- Fish are weighed, tagged, inspected and displayed for auction bidding.
- The auction starts at 5:30 am and lasts until all the fish are sold.
- Fishermen are paid that afternoon.
What is done to preserve the quality and safety of auction fish?
- All fishermen have agreed to follow safe fish handling practices.
- All fish are inspected for signs of spoilage and mishandling before they are offered at auction.
- Fish temperatures are checked and fish are kept cold once they are at the auction.
- Our facility is inspected by the FDA.
- We have an intense sanitation program and seafood safety plan that keeps our seafood safe.
There is great concern about the condition of the oceans and fish populations. Should I stop eating fish?
- Not all seafood is created equal. There are choices to be made.
- Responsible consumers should support responsible fisheries.
- Buy fish from well-managed fisheries (like Hawaii) and avoid seafood from less well-managed fisheries.
- There is a very good reason why imported seafood tends to be less expensive.
- The reason is lower operating costs, lax environmental laws and often a much less stringent fishery management.
- Buying seafood from fisheries that are not well-managed (“part of the problem”) should be avoided.
- Buying Hawaii seafood supports a fishery that is well-managed for sustainability (“part of the solution”).
Is Hawaii Longline Fishing uncontrolled
No. Hawaii longline fishermen follow U.S. and international regulations when operating in U.S. and international waters. There is intensive monitoring and enforcement in this fishery and the level of compliance is high.
Are more foreign boats joining Hawaii longline fisheries every year?
No. All vessels operating in Hawaii longline fisheries must be U.S-flagged. No foreign fishing vessels are allowed to engage in longline fishing or transshipment in the Exclusive Economic Zone extending 200 nautical miles offshore of Hawaii and foreign vessels cannot unload fish catches in Hawaii. The U.S. Coast Guard is vigilant against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing vessels.
How is the quantity of fish caught by Hawaii longliners tracked?
Hawaii longline fishermen report their catch. Each landing of fish through the Honolulu Fish Auction is fully traceable to a particular licensed vessel. Hawaii longline operators are required to submit a completed longline fishing logbook that reports the daily fishing activity to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) within 72 hours after returning to port. The reliability of logbook data has been verified using observer data from Hawaii longline fisheries.
Are Tuna are running out? Should we stop eating Hawaii pelagic fish.
No. Some articles in high-profile scientific journals claim to show catastrophic declines in population sizes and warn of wholesale collapse of oceanic food chains. These prophecies are based on the selective use of small, biased subsets of the data and on faulty analyses. The most credible analysis is published by the scientists who perform stock assessments for NOAA Fisheries, the University of Hawaii’s Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. Using state-of-the-art methods applied to all available data, these uniquely qualified scientists conclude that there is little impact of fisheries on some Pacific tuna populations harvested by Hawaii longline fisheries but substantial, though not catastrophic, impacts on others.
Of the pelagic species caught in the Hawaii longline fishery only the bigeye tuna is experiencing overfishing. Quotas are in place to eliminate overfishing. This does not mean we should stop eating Hawaii bigeye tuna. We should be concerned about bigeye tuna from fleets that are not willing to or able to adhere to quotas
How are dolphins affected by Hawaii longline fishermen?
All Hawaii tuna are line-caught by hand and therefore “dolphin-safe” because no nets are used to encircle dolphin schools with tuna. Dolphin-safe regulations and labeling are in place for tuna caught by purse seiners that fish in areas where dolphins swim with tuna schools (ex. eastern Pacific). This does not happen in the area where Hawaii longline fishing occurs.
Is there a lot of waste, or “bycatch” with fish that are discarded during the catching process?
No. Hawaii longline fisheries are managed under Federal regulations that conform to the mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to minimize bycatch of fish and non-fish species. Fish bycatch is minimized and catch utilization is maximized in the multi-species pelagic fish catches of these fisheries. Most of the fish are retained after capture because Hawaii’s fresh fish market values diverse species. The major exception is the blue shark which few if any consider edible, which is released alive with a good chance of survival after accidental capture. Fish that survive interactions with fishing gear are not considered bycatch when defined as fishery waste. Catch and release sport fishing is no different and is commonly considered a conservation measure.
How are sea turtle populations affected by Hawaii longline fishermen?
Sea turtles can become hooked and or entangled in pelagic longline fishing gear. When accidentally hooked or entangled, sea turtles can usually be released alive. Leading sea turtle scientists have concluded that not even the total elimination of the Hawaii longline fisheries would result in a measurable impact on Pacific sea turtle populations because incidental captures and mortalities are so rare. NOAA prepared Biological Opinions in 2004 and 2008 and concluded that the anticipated impacts of the Hawaii longline fisheries on sea turtles was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these species.
Are sea turtle interactions in the Hawaii Swordfish Fishery being controlled?
Yes. The swordfish sector of the Hawaii longline fishery was closed for three years because of the perception of a high level of gear interactions with protected sea turtles. This sector was re-opened in 2004 under new Federal regulations that require the use of circle (rather than J) hooks and fish (rather than squid) bait and other measures to minimize the severity of injuries and trauma to sea turtles after accidental capture. Limits have been placed on sea turtle interactions with Hawaii longline gear. In the event that a predetermined limit on the number of loggerhead (17) or leatherback turtle (16) interactions is exceeded, the swordfish sector of Hawaii longline fisheries is closed for the rest of the calendar year, regardless of whether it has reached total allowable sets. The limit has only been reached once since it was imposed. The new regulations have resulted in an 89 percent reduction in the incidental interactions with all turtle species in the Hawaii swordfish longline fishery.
Are Hawaiian monk seals casualties of Hawaii longline fishing in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Monument?
No. Longline fishing exclusion zone extends 50 nautical miles offshore from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This zone was established as a precautionary measure in 1994, well before Monument designation. Since that time, there have been no documented interactions with endangered monk seals.