Got opakapaka? Seven popular species of bottomfish remain abundant in Hawaiian waters and can continue to be sustainably harvested, according to a new stock assessment from NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. The new assessment shows a positive outlook for the stock—not currently overfished and no overfishing. The Hawaii "Deep 7" bottomfish stock, which is made up of opakapaka (pink snapper), onaga (longtail snapper), ehu (squirrelfish snapper), kalekale (Von Siebold's snapper), gindai (Brigham’s snapper), lehi (silverjaw snapper), and hapuupuu (Seale's grouper), is jointly managed by state and federal authorities.
Fishing for bottomfish is an important component of the local economy with a long tradition in the Hawaiian culture. Today, bottomfish account for more than 50 percent of the total domestic commercial catch and are valued in the millions of dollars. Bottomfish are popular in seafood restaurants and on dinner tables throughout Hawaii and are also used to celebrate special occasions. This new assessment shows that bottomfish can continue to be sustainably harvested.
There are new and exciting improvements to this latest stock assessment. For the first time, PIFSC scientists included information from the bottomfish fishery-independent survey. These surveys are completed annually with a lot of help from local commercial fishermen.
Scientists use underwater camera systems to collect video footage of bottomfish in their deep-water habitats. The underwater footage combined with data collected by local fishermen through the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group gives us an idea of how many fish there are throughout Hawaii. The information from these surveys and fishers influenced the results of the stock assessment and showed that the stock is healthy.
In addition, local fishers provided input—through a series of workshops—that helped us improve the quality of commercial data used in the analysis. Also for the first time, PIFSC scientists have provided a single species assessment for opakapaka (pink snapper). Opakapaka is a popular fish that makes up two-thirds of the total catch and two-thirds of the stock. Scientists found that opakapaka stocks also have a positive outlook, similar to the overall assessment. All of these results will be presented to fishery managers who will use the information to set new catch limits.
This story appeared in the Summer 2018 print issue of Hawaii Farm & Food Magazine, a quarterly publication published by AIO Media in partnership with the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. For questions or comments, please contact editor Martha Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org.