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This method has been practiced throughout the length of the Hawaiian Archipelago since the 1930s. Bottomfishing methods using handlines and baited hooks originated with the ancient Hawaiians but have been modernized with the introduction of small-mechanized reels and line pullers.

Underwater chumming practices of the ancient Hawaiians continue in the present-day fishery. Fishermen target both deepwater species (opakapaka, onaga, hapu’upu’u) and mid-water species (uku) associated with pinnacles and other bottom features on offshore slopes and banks.

During the 1980s, participation in the bottomfish fishery expanded from a small group of full-time commercial fishermen to a large number of part-time fishermen.

Since the beginning of the bottomfish fishery, commercial fishermen have voluntarily rotated fishing grounds to allow local fish populations to recover and to conserve the overall stocks.

The sustainable limited entry fishery in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands was the primary source of Hawaii deepwater bottomfish. With the creation of the National Marine Monument encompassing the fertile fishing grounds of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the handful of vessels that had fished there sustainably for years are now slated to be relocated. The remaining bottomfish fishery in the Main Hawaiian Islands is experiencing overfishing and strict commercial catch limits are in place to allow the fish stocks to recover.

Bottomfishing – Illustration by Les Hata