HIBT Catch and Fishing Effort Since 1959
A statistical perspective

Peter S Davie Pacific Ocean Research Foundation Kailua-Kona, Hawaii


The global fish take is in decline. After the peak in 1989 of 86 million tonnes, the FAO has reported a decline in global fish catch in 1992 and 1993, the two most recent years for which data are available. The ocean's bounty has been taken beyond the limits and many fisheries scientists and analysts agree that the sustainable yield for most oceans was reached decades ago. Overfishing is so obvious in some fisheries as to make a mockery of the industry. The 24 hour "season " for Pacific halibut in Alaska is an example of where the entire year's catch can be taken within a day. The capital and manpower required to mount such an expedition results in economic losses amount to an estimated US$15-30 billion each year (FAO). Overfishing has grown despite the introduction in 1976 of the 200 mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs) surrounding the coasts of maritime nations and in which most of the high value species live. After 18 years of sovereign control over these waters fishing in developed countries is even worse than ever. When countries have excluded foreign fleets from their EEZ the domestic fleet has usually expanded to fill the gap.

Reasons for this tragedy are clear. Fishermen are hunter-gatherers. They have no exclusive right to the fishery as say farmers have over their land. Without this assurance over the long term, fishermen will continue to make good economic decisions about fishing which are at variance with good decisions for the fishery. Fisherman have no reason to think that they will gain by limiting their catch. The fish that they have left, or their offspring, will likely be caught by another fisher. The more that can be caught now, the better, since the cost of there being fewer fish next year will be borne by the whole fleet and not by the individual. Fishermen will continue to try to catch the last fish long after it has become obvious that the fishery is under dire stress. There are strong economic reasons for them to do so and these economic reasons are often supported by subsidies to the fishing industries from the* governments. Instead of protection, governments are adding fuel to the fire which is destroying the fisheries.

Fishermen seldom trust fisheries managers to assure the* future. Indeed the past records of fisheries managers alluded to above would suggests that they are right to be wary. While it is true that fisheries science is one which is inexact, it is equally true that it is the best available method for setting catches and although there is significant uncertainty about sustainable catches. the estimates are not necessarily too low or in error.

1.(Department of Physiology and Anatomy, Massey University, Palmerston North New Zealand)

One of PORF's aims is to facilitate wise management of gamefish species so asto benefit the recreational fishing community. Informed commentary from a recreational perspective in a timely fashion and in appropriate forums has inthe past been influential in setting management objectives (See article byPeter Saul this report). Thus PORF has undertaken to provide information on the gamefish fishery off Kona, Hawaii in a form which is readily interpretable so that the gamefish conservation lobby may be more effective wherever it may operate.

This report therefore has two aims. First, to collate our analyses of the fishery so as to enable trends with time to be clearly seen and second, to inform anglers and tournament participants including officials, of the patterns of fishing in the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.

The report has four main parts. The first presents and discusses the catch data from the tournaments as a description of the recreational fishery. Time related trends apparent in the catch with the years are discussed. The second part examines the tournament and focuses on angling. Data on tag and release and capture times are discussed in the third section. The fourth section takes a close look at the 1993 and 1994 fishing activity. Strikes, hookups and captures are presented by area fished and related to fishing effort. In the last section some conclusions are drawn about the data to hand.

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