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Workshop on the Management of Deepwater Artisanal and Small Scale Fisheries (continue)

Deepwater bottom fisheries of Fiji

R.M. Stone
P.O. Box 271
Pacific Harbour, Fiji


The deepwater fish of the Fiji Islands are a diverse group of fishes found on the continental slope, pinnacles and seamounts at depths between 70 and 250 fathoms (130–460 m). There are two distinct capture zones the first of which is between 70 and 120 fathoms and the second between 180 and 220 fathoms. The first zone is dominated by Pristipomoides spp., Aphareus rutilans, Paracaesio kusakarii, Seriola rivoliana and Wattsia mossambica. The second deeper zone is characterized by Etelis spp., Seriola rivoliana, and Paracaesio stonei. The most given common species found in Fiji are in the Table1 with the common names, indicative prices from the Hawaiian market (quoted in Ocean Trader 2002) and export status.

Table 1
Export deepwater fishes of Fiji

Scientific nameCommon nameExport prices 2002 US$/lbExport status
Etelis carbunculusEhu3.25Dominant
Etelis coruscansOnaga4.25Dominant
Etelis radiosusSmalltooth snapper Probably included in Ehu exports
Pristipomoides multidensPurplecheek Opakapaka3.5This is the most common Fiji species and is well received on the export market
Pristipomoides flavipinnisYellow-Finned Opakapaka An export species used in the whole deep-fried market because of its smaller size.
Pristipomoides filamentosisOpakapaka The most common sort after Pristipomoides spp.
Pristipomoides zonatusGindai A specialty Hawaii export species
Pristipomoides typusRed tailed Opakapaka This species is not very common.
Aphareus rutilansLehi3.25Dominant
Wattsia mossambicaLarge eye bream Local market
Paracaesio kusakariiBedford Local market
Paracaesio stoneiStone’s snapper Local market
Lutjanus malabaricusRosi ni bogi Occasionally exported to Hawaii
Epinephelus magniscuttisHapu Exported
Epinephelus miliarisHapu Exported
Epinephelus morrhuaHapu Exported
Epinephelus septemfasciatusHapu Exported
Seriola rivolianaKahala Not exported to Hawaii as banned because of ciguatera


Deep-slope fishes, especially snappers, tend to have slow growth with low recruitment, which results in them being highly susceptible to over-fishing. They are usually top-level carnivores, feeding on fish, squid and deepwater shrimp (Smith 1992). Information on their biology and ecology is available in Moffit (1993). The Paracaesios often feed on pelagic salps.


The commercial bottom finfish fisheries of the Fiji islands consist of two dominant fisheries. The reef fishery is undertaken inside or close to reef structures and generally in waters shallower than 120 m. Fishing methods include day and night diving with spear gun, hook and line and gill net fishing. The outer reef fishery which uses hook and line for deepwater “bottom fish”. This fishery is usually carried out in water depths exceeding 130 m.

Deep-slope fishes are caught with baited tuna-circle hooks with usually 4–5 hooks per drop using hand-operated, electric or hydraulic reels. Bottom-set longlines are also used in some areas. The flesh of virtually all species is of excellent quality and is free of ciguatoxin (Lewis 1985a, b).


The first recorded catches of deep bottom fish were in the late 1960s when Captain Gordon Elliott returned from fisheries training in Hawaii. Elliott teamed with his Senior Fisheries Officer; Louis Devambez, obtaining small catches of Pristipomoides spp., Aphareus spp. and Paracaesio spp. outside the main Suva reef. Gear and fishing techniques were later improved with the introduction of an echo sounder and with fishing gear given to the author by the crew of the visiting Hawaiian research and commercial skipjack tuna vessel Anela in 1972.

The first commercial fishery for the deep-slope bottom fish began in 1979 using a 28’St. Pierre dory and hydraulic reels. A FAO boat building project was the catalyst for continued development of the commercial fishery along with the introduction of the FAO designed wooden hand reel. Initially all of the catch was sold locally until Richard Howell of the USA set up business in Fiji to pack fish for export (1982) having previously gained experience in American Samoa. With advice and technical assistance from the Fisheries Division, Howell was able to encourage a number of fishermen to enter the fishery enabling him to establish a small but viable export market.

The developing Fiji fishery became innovative as foreign fishermen introduced the use of larger most sophisticated fishing vessels, using commercial fish-finding sonars and deploying bottom long-lines and hydraulically operated reels rather than the simple wooden hand-reel. Lewis, Sesewa and Adams (1988) provide the best description of the Fiji deep-slope fishery prior to its demise after 1987. The Fiji deep-slope fleet comprised one 20 m Hawaiian long-liner, four larger local vessels (three dropline and one long-line) and a number of 9 m dories, similar to those used in Tonga. The larger vessels deploying hydraulic reels used lines with five or more hooks per line. Skipjack was rejected by the local cannery as bait throughout the fishery. The larger vessels used a palu or chum bag to aggregate fish and increase catch rates. At the peak of the Fiji fishery about 200t of deep-slope fish were landed annually, with about 75percent of this sold overseas.

The disruption in airline scheduling following political events in 1987 was a serious setback in the fishery, as profit margins were not large. However, the vessels involved in the fishery began to shift from demersal fishing to pelagic longlining to catch large high-value tunas such as yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and big-eye (T. obesus). These species can be caught more reliably than deep-slope fishes, realize a much better return on overseas markets and the stocks are not nearly as limited as fish stocks on the deep-slope.

The expansion of the deep-slope fishery in Fiji was based largely on catches from virgin stocks and catch rates could fall by order of magnitude in a short period of time, particularly when fishing on seamounts. In 1989, there were at least 22 larger vessels locally involved in the fishery. Some of the commercial fishing areas began to show declines in catch per unit effort (CPUE) during the late 1980s and this and other economic factors prompted alternative investments by fishermen in longline gear for sashimi tunas and other pelagic species.

During the first six months of 1990, only 43.7 t of deep-slope snappers were exported from Fiji and exports were not expected to exceed 100 t for the entire year. In 1994 there were two large commercial vessels actively involved in the deep-slope snapper fishery, but several 8.6 m vessels supply deepwater bottom fish to hotels and other markets. Prices paid for these fish averaged between FJ$ 3–4 a kilogram.


Data obtained from the licensing section of the Fiji Fisheries Department for the years 2001–2003 is show in Table 2. There may be some discrepancies in the data as a number of fishermen that are still fishing the outer reef slope and exporting through a pack house are not shown as having a licence. This may reflect a separate classification for smaller vessels. It should be noted that the deepwater snapper (DWS) licence has not been strictly monitored and catch data logsheets have not been submitted. This is unfortunate as although the overall Fiji catch as reflected in exports (Table 3) is way below the total allowable catch (TAC), catch data can be used in many ways to help develop and manage a fishery.


The catch in the Fiji deepwater fishery has not been recorded in recent years as most of the limited staff resources of the Fisheries Department have been redirected to the management of the tuna fishery. It is apparent that the Zone 1 (70–120 fathoms) fishery for deepwater snappers, apart from Aphareus spp., are almost all marketed locally while the Zone 2 caught fish are exported. This has resulted in a probable misreporting of the deepwater fishery by up to 50 percent.

The Fiji Fish Marketing Group (managed by Russell Dunham) has supplied data on the catch of their vessel, F.V. Sasalu ni Wai Tui (see Appendix) This vessel was supplied to the Fisheries Department as an extension vessel by Japanese Aid and was later sold to the private sector. This fibreglass vessel is hard chined, has a number of fish holds and has a low profile to decrease windage. A new captain has been given command of this vessel and the daily catch rate has increased substantially. The vessel is now very profitable and highlights the most important factor that has been obvious in the Skipjack and Longline fisheries, a good fishing master is paramount to success !


Only four genera of deepwater fish were exported in 2002. (National Fisheries Authority Database) These were Epinephelus, Etelis, Pristipomoides and Aphareus (Table 4).


The market for Fiji deepwater fish has traditionally been Hawaii where the fishery for similar species has flourished for many years. This market however has had a number of incidences that have tended to keep the market prices static over the past twenty years. These include the developing fisheries of the South and Central Pacific and a limited market base in Hawaii and an even smaller market for “exotic”species on the US mainland. To counteract these effects, Hawaii State attempted to encourage the Hawaii and Pacific Fisheries to combine efforts and produce a “Hawaii and Pacific Island Marketing Alliance”. This concept had merit but was beset with funding problems and consequently did not realize the envisaged marketing impact on the US mainland for Hawaii and Pacific Island fish.

Table 2
Deepwater fishing licences 2001–2003

Deepwater snapper vessel licences
20011C&J Enterprises
2ITS (Fiji) Ltd
1John Costello
1John Teaiwa
1Angus Joy
1Kaitani Seafoods Limited
1Lindsy Lee
1Michael Light
1Pasemaca Adi Tukana
1Pat Fuata
1Raseburu Moceicea
2Taniela Wainiqolo
1Trans Pacific Seafoods Limited
ApharaeusOcean Trader Limlted
Kai OniITS (Fiji) Ltd
Sasalu ni WaituiThe Fiji Fish Marketing Group
ShogunVista Fisheries Limited
ShalomShalom Fishing Company
DoollyOrion marine Company Limited
Valpoe 1The (Fiji) Snapper Company Limited
Lady TrezaTreza Fishing Company Limited
Fortuna #1C&J Enterprises
Sasalu ni WaituiThe Fiji Fish Marketing Group
Kai OniITS (Fiji) Ltd
John GOcean Quest (Fiji) Ltd
Nabau 11Tolu Shipping Company Limited
Kaela JLindsay Lee
NarrellePatrick James Tripp
AphareusOcean Trader Ltd
ShogunVista Fisheries Limited

Table 3
Annual export tonnage 1998–2002

YearWeight (tonnes)
199825 .9

Table 4
Species and weight of deepwater fish exported by Fiji companies-2002 (kg)

Ocean Trader 3903.52655.33296214.210068.6
Agape Fishing Enterprises13529.5456.531.5 1030.5
Hangton Pacific Co. Ltd.  69.8  69.8
Information Technology695.541575724125 10701.5
Fiji Fish1544.513676.39714.34389879.130202.72
Tri-Pacific Marine    36.836.8
Tuna Pacific Co Ltd.94    94
Scientific nameCommon name 
Epinephelus spp.Hapu 
Etelis carbunculusEhu 
Etelis coruscansOnaga 
Aphareus rutilansLehi 
Pristipomoides spp.Opakapaka 

The airfreight problems have not recovered from the political upheaval in Fiji of 1987 and coupled with a shift in airline priorities from Hawaii to Tokyo and Los Angeles, the Hawaii freight space availability is now acute. Some respite was forthcoming with a number of Los Angeles distributors buying Fijian deepwater fish. However, the price is generally lower that the Hawaii price and costs slightly higher. The market on the US mainland has become one for skinless fillet and consequently the appearance factor is selling has been diminished. The stage is now set for Island processors to fillet and super freeze portioned control pieces for delivery to distributors who breakdown cartons for FedEx courier to high-end restaurants.

Alas, the US dollar has plummeted in value over the second half of 2003 (25 percent) taking the small profit margin with it. It will be interesting to see the effect this has on the Hawaii price range. It is rather fortunate that the local market for the deepwater fish is evolving and with more effort and chef training an excellent tourist hotel market could develop.


Lewis et al. (1988) gave estimates of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for Fijian deep-slope stocks ranging between 550 to 1600 t a year based on comparative data from elsewhere in the Pacific or on an estimate of 4900t from the results of a Japanese survey (Anon. 1987). More recently, an analysis by Nath and Sesewa (1990) of commercial catch data from four sea-mounts and three coastal areas showed that in all instances initial catch rates fell to a level where fishing became uneconomic. The potential yield range in MSY has been estimated at between 409 and 1230 t a year (Dalzell and Preston 1992).


10.1 Current legislation/policy regarding exploitation

In 1987, the Ministry imposed a Guideline prohibiting large vessels from fishing for deep-slope snappers around Vanua Levu and Viti Levu. In 1989 the Ministry (Anon.1989) imposed further Guidelines on the issue of new licences pertaining to vessels over 11 m in length, under discretionary powers enabled by Section 5(1) of the Fisheries Act (1992) under the Guidelines:

The reasons behind the Guidelines were:

The 1989 Guidelines were superseded by Legal Notice 25 of 1990 (LN 25/90) which inserted three new regulations and three new schedules into the Fisheries Act Subsidiary Legislation (Cap. 158 as amended), to require a special licence for Fiji fishing vessels catching tuna or deepwater snapper in Fiji waters and to apply several compliance conditions. These conditions include catch reporting requirements and a requirement to accommodate observers on board licensed vessels. The “Offshore Licence” Regulations allow investment in offshore vessels for tuna longlining, but restrict the potential for overfishing deepwater snapper.

10.2 The Fisheries Management Bill 2002

The intention of this bill is to establish a National Fisheries Authority and to make provision for the management, development and regulation of fisheries within Fiji fisheries waters and Fiji vessels and nationals on the high seas in a manner consistent with Fiji’s international obligations. Development in fisheries both at the regional and international levels necessitated legislative changes in order for Fiji to derive maximum benefit from her fisheries resources. The Bill repeals the Fisheries Act (Cap 158), and the Marine Spaces Act Chap. 158a. Part 111 of the Act titled Fisheries Management, Conservation and Development contains the following clauses.

Clause 23. MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES AND PRINCIPLES. This clause outlines the main objectives and principles of the Act. These objectives and principles will act as guides to the Minister, director of the authority, as they exercise their functions and powers under the Act. Any action taken, or decision made, by any person or body under the Act must be taken or made within the ambit of its objectives and principles.

Clause 25. LIMITS TO FISHING AND DESIGNATED FISHERIES. This clause is for conservation and management measures whereby the Director in consultation with the Chief Executive establishes fishing limits. Subclause (1) provides matters that could be subject to fishing limits such as total allowable catch, fishing effort, licences or permits. Subclause (2) gives the Minister power to make regulations in respect to of those matters specified in the subclause. Subclause (3) gives the Minister power to declare any fishery to be a designated fishery. This power is exercised on the advice of the Director.

Clause 26. FISHERY MANAGEMENT PLANS. This clause deals with the Fishery Management Plan. The Fishery Management Plan is perhaps the most important fishery management activity in Fiji. Under this clause, the Director in consultation with the Chief Executive shall prepare a management plan. Subclause (2) provides for the things that could be in the management plan.

Clause 27. RECORDS, RETURNS AND OTHER INFORMATION. This clause gives the Director power to require from those involved in the Fisheries to provide to the Director all relevant data or information as the Director shall require. Subclause(2) provides the types of data or information which the Director may require under this clause.


The Fiji deepwater snapper fishery has appeared to stabilize at an export volume of 50t. This, however, does not reflect the calculated MSY or the fisheries potential. There are continued problems with freight space and exchange rates as well as the problem of market saturation. The deepwater fishery requires specialized vessels and equipment coupled with the need for an intelligent well-trained fishing masters. Once this has been attained then good results can be expected. It has been continuously emphasized that the fishery is capable of rapid overfishing and that the long-lived deepwater fish populations take time to regenerate. Until we have good records, sound scientific analysis and a functioning Management Plan, no clear guidelines can be established.


Anon. 1987. The fisheries resources survey in Fiji and Tuvalu -Figures and Tables. April 1987. Japan International Cooperation Agency, Tokyo, Japan. 126pp.

Anon. 1989. Draft Cabinet Memorandum. The domestic “Sashirni” (Deepwater snapper and tuna) fishery: Including recommendations for its control by addition to the Fisheries Regulations. Fiji Fisheries Division, Suva, Fiji. pag. var.

Dalzell, P. and G.L. Preston 1992. Deep reef slope fishery resources of the South Pacific: A summary and analysis of the dropline fishing survey data generated by the activities of the SPC Fisheries Programme between 1974 and 1988. Inshore Fisheries Research Project Technical Document No.2. SPC, Noumea, New Caledonia. 299pp.

Fisheries Act (Cap. 158) (Ed.) 1992. Laws of Fiji. Government Printer, Suva, Fiji.

Lewis, A.D. 1984. Food fishes of Fiji. Fisheries Division, Suva: 1 poster: col.; 99 × 69 cm.

Lewis, A.D. (ed.) 1985a. Fishery resource profiles: information for development planning. Fisheries Division, Ministry of Primary Industries, Suva, Fiji: 90p. (Partially updated in 1988).

Lewis, A.D. 1985b. Food fishes of Fiji-II. Fisheries Division, Suva: 1 poster: col.; 99x69cm.

Lewis, A.D., A. Sesewa & T.J.H. Adams 1988. The Fiji deep-water snapper fishery -its development and management requirements. South Pacific Commission Workshop on Inshore Fishery Resources. SPC/lnshore Fishery Resources/BP 67. 14pp.

Moffit, R.B. 1993. Deepwater demersal fish. In: Wright, A. and L.Hill (eds.). Nearshore marine resources of the South Pacific. Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara and Institute of Pacific Studies, Suva. 73–95.

Nath, G. & A. Sesewa 1990. Assessment of deepwater bottomfish stocks around the Fijian Republic. In: Polovina, J. R. Shomura (eds.). United States Agency for International Development, and National Marine Fisheries Service -Workshop on tropical fish stock assessment, 5–26 July 1989. Honolulu, Hawaii. 7:27.

Smith, A.J. 1992. Federated States of Micronesia Marine Resources Profiles. FFA Report No. 92/17. South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands. 108pp.

Catch data of the F.V. Sasalu ni Wai Tui, 2002

MonthTripExport (kg)Bycatch (kg)Catch/tripDays/tripCatch/day
March45086781 1869132
April57791 028.91 807.912151
May7595851.81 446.81596
June9473704.61 177.61391
November19 252546
 201632454.62 086.69232
 211 134.61 489.92 624.58328
 2312561 087.22 343.210234
 2412934731 76611161
Total 11 711.312 234.723 94624598

Shore-based handling and processing of deepwater fish in Fiji

R.M. Stone
P.O. Box 271
Pacific Harbour, Fiji


Fish discharched at the wharf are inspected at the time of unloading for temperature and general condition, (e.g. in rigor). Species incriminated in any ciguatera poisoning outbreaks are rejected. Information from the skipper or his logbooks is used to confirm that the fish are caught in areas considered safe from ciguatoxin. The fish are transferred from the boat straight into ice in bins (drained) for the trip to the factory and for any subsequent storage prior to packing.

The fish are maintained in drained ice until time for processing and are then graded by species, size and general quality, e.g. unsuitable species, diseased or ulcerated fish, bruising, wounds in flesh, general condition and age. Unsatisfactory product is diverted into alternative local markets. The fish are processed to customer requirements. Fish may be sent whole gut-in, or head-on gilled and gutted, or head off and gutted.

Gilling and gutting requires considerable care to remove the gut intact and without piercing the belly cavity membrane. The cavity is washed with clean water. The fish are washed briefly with clean chilled water. Final packing is timed so that the fish are in the cartons for a minimum time before packing. For packing, fish are removed from the ice and the deep muscle temperature is checked (not greater than 2 °C) to make sure the fish are down to the required low temperature.

The individual fish are placed into a prepared carton and individual weights and species are recorded for each carton. The cartons are constructed of waxed, corrugated fiberboard and are lined with a heavy polyethylene liner to stop leakage. Insulation consists of layers of unprinted newsprint on all six sides. Frozen gel packs are added to the carton to help maintain low temperature during air shipment. Temperature data loggers may be added to one or more cartons to record any temperature rises that might occur during shipment. Packed cartons are placed into insulated truck for the 2.5 hour journey to the airport. Cartons may be transferred into a storage chiller at the airport. Air shipment is from Fiji to either Hawaii or US mainland, other destinations are Australia and New Zealand. Delays while waiting for connecting flights, total flight time can be up to 24 hours.


Fish toxins in fish offered for sale from various fisheries are caused by either mishandling of the catch or occur naturally in nature. The management of fish toxins is possible using HACCP-based food safety procedures although the toxins that occur naturally present a rather daunting control problem. Fish poisoning has always been a part of Pacific Island life. The poison may have been ciguatera, histamine or other toxins of the reef. While acceptance of the risk of fish poisoning may be acceptable to Pacific islanders, it is a major issue for those wishing to export fish from the region and in particular for reef fish from certain areas.

The Pacific Islands have some of the most diverse and wonderful tasting fish in the world and it is imperative that rules, systems, methodology and research ensure that the world is able to savour the flavours of tropical fish without enduring the consequences of exposure to the occasional bloom of a toxic dinoflagellate or mishandled fish. As soon as skinless fish fillets leave Pacific Island shores fish identity is lost and abuse can occur. It is at this stage that unless the Competent Authority has all their required systems in place the Pacific could loose their markets due to ciguatera problems.


3.1 Types of hazards

The Food and Drug administration of the United States of America (FDA) have divided the fish toxins (Chemical Hazard) into two distinct types, Natural Toxins and Scombrotoxin (Table 1).

Table 1
Selected potential vertebrate species related hazards (FDA 2001)

i. CFP = ciguatera fish poison; G= gempylotoxin
ii. This table does not provide information about methyl mercury.
iii. X4This Hazard does not apply if the product is intended to be cooked by the consumer or end-user
Market namesBinominal namesHazards
Natural Toxins
CHP 11
AmberjackSeriola spp. CFPX  
SnapperEtelis spp.
Escolar or OilfishLepidocybium
Ruvettus pretiosus

Natural toxins are generally produced by species of naturally occurring phytoplankton. They accumulate in fish when they feed on the algae or on other prey fish that have fed on the algae. There are also a few natural toxins which occur in certain species of fish. Numerous sources of seafood poisoning have been identified in the Pacific involving reef fishes (ciguatera), sardines (clupeotoxism), puffer fishes (tetrodotoxism) and Escolar (gempylotoxin). Scombrotoxin formation is also considered a chemical toxin and is a result of time and temperature abuse of certain species of fish. The illness caused by these fish species is closely linked to the development of histamine in these fish.

3.2 Natural toxins affecting fish in the Pacific - ciguatera

The benthic dinoflagellate (Gambierdiscus toxicus) has been described as the primary causative agent of ciguatera fish poisoning in the Pacific. Gambierdiscus spp. lives under the surface mucus layer of “host”red, green and brown macroalga. Although traditional knowledge of toxic species or reef areas are established in the village situations, the general public, or city folk, do not know the identity of most of the reef fish and as simple as this may seem this is no doubt the cause of a substantial amount of fish poisoning. The often toxic red bass (Lutjanus bohar) is red and looks very similar to a number of deepwater non-toxic snappers all of which are red. It is also well known in Fiji that when it comes to the crunch and fish have to be rejected or kept for consumption the author has never seen one rejected. On a visit to the local Navua (Fiji) market on 15 June 2003 the author saw a number of Lutjanus bohar offered for sale. All would have been bought and consumed and at this time of the year (winter) probably be safe to eat though a risk the author would not take.

Many, if not all, island reef fish consumers have been poisoned at one time in their life and the traditional reaction is one of resignation and acceptance. Few Islanders die from ciguatera and although the affects at time of occurrence can be irritating it is soon forgotten or remembered subconsciously. Consequently, the bold and young will eat the known poisonous fish and on occasion where tradition is lost and someone weak or not in good health eats poison fish a tragedy will occur. The most probable explanation to the response is equated to gambling in Vegas: you know you cannot win but you still put the quarter in the slot.

The FDA have listed a number of fish species as being potentially capable of having ciguatera fish poison and it has been the experience of most of the Pacific Islands that some of those species listed have never displayed ciguatoxic tendencies. Pristipomoides spp. and Etelis spp. are two such fish genera. Possible reasons for this:

There is no explanation for the inclusion of Etelis spp. in the ciguatera listing.

3.3 Fisheries where ciguatera is likely to occur - The fresh and frozen reef fish trade

There has been a huge migration of Pacific Islanders to the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand consequently developing a demand for ethnic food products in those areas. The pressure on the reef fish stocks is therefore even more acute and accordingly reefs and areas never before fished are being harvested. All reef fish large enough to be eaten are harvested as there is always someone who will relish a fish considered inedible by others.

International markets and national health authorities have been slow in responding to the possibility of ciguatera affecting the consumers of those countries. However, exceptions occur. It is anticipated that as more countries and companies recognize the dangers of importing reef fish from countries that have inadequate controls on their exports then the market place will become very restricted. Therefore, it is imperative that immediate steps be taken to implement legislation that will enable National Fisheries Authorities to have some form of control over species being exported.

The Secretariat of Pacific Communities (SPC) have suggested that urgent action should be taken to pre-empt closing of all Pacific Island reef fish exports. The points considered by SPC are incorporated in the final conclusions to this paper. This is a most important issue when it comes to skinless fillets. Recently the author was asked how Pristipomoides multidens could be poisonous as the company involved had complaints from a number of customers who had bought skinless fillets. After questioning the staff for some days it was revealed that a large Aprion had snuck into the Pristipomoides fillet line and that this appeared to be the cause of the problem.

3.4 Some other natural fish toxins that occur in the Pacific

3.4.1 Deepwater snapper poisoning

In work done at USP it was found that the liver of the highly-prized, edible deep-sea snapper (Etelis carbunculus) fish was toxic after a family was poisoned in Taveuni, Fiji. (Yasumoto, Raj and Bagnis 1984, pp.39–40).

3.4.2 Gempylotoxin

Escolar or oilfish (i.e. Lepidocybium flavobrunneum and Ruvettus pretiosus) contain a strong purgative oil called gempylotoxin that may cause diarrhea when consumed (FDA 2001). These fish are implicated in histamine poisoning. Two relevant reports from the University of Southern California, Davis, listserve are noted below:

Both these reports indicate a discrepancy in fish identification and marketing. The management message is simple. Get it right and market the right species!

3.5 Scombrotoxin affecting fish in the Pacific - histamine

Scombrotoxin formation as a result of time and temperature abuse of certain species of fish and can cause consumer illness. The illness is most closely linked to the development of histamine in these fish. In most cases histamine levels in illness-causing fish have been above 200 ppm, often above 500ppm.There are indications that decomposition can result in the production of other toxins that have the potential to cause illness, even in the absence of histamine formation. Such illnesses have been reported in a number of fish species. Histamine is not eliminated by cooking or canning.

Scombroid poisonings have primarily been associated with the consumption of tuna, mahi mahi, and Spanish mackerel. However, Table #3–1 of the FDA Fish and Fisheries Products Hazards and Controls Guidance lists a number of species that are also capable of developing elevated levels of histamine when temperature abused (Table1).

3.6 Management methodology

The histamine-forming bacteria usually grow rapidly only at high temperatures. At 32.2 oC, unsafe levels of histamine may appear within six hours; at 21oC, 24 hours. Because wide variations occur between individual fish even under the same conditions, it is necessary to consistently remove heat rapidly from the freshly harvested fish and maintain a low temperature until the fish are prepared for consumer use. Particularly for large fish, special precautions and equipment are required for the rapid removal of heat. Periodic increases in product temperature during storage can result in more histamine being formed. Sensory analysis is an effective screening method that reduces the risk of accepting histamine-containing fish; however, histamine may form without the usual odors of decomposition. Chemical analysis for histamine is also possible. A detailed knowledge of the temperature history of the product provides the best control method.

3.7 FDA’s approach to histamine controls

3.7.1 Vessel harvest records approach

Methods used by vessels and export factories to control possible formation of histamine are as follows (FDA 2001):

  1. Fish are place into chilled seawater, preferable slush ice immediately after capture.
  2. With some harvesting practices, such as long lining, death can occur before the fish is removed from the water. Under the worst conditions histamine formation can already be underway before the fish is landed on the vessel. This condition can be aggravated when the fish are allowed to remain on the line for a period of time after death, a situation that in certain bottom fish species may cause its internal temperature to increase to a more favorable growth range for the enzyme forming bacteria.
  3. Rapid chilling of fish immediately after death is the most important element in any strategy for preventing the formation of scombrotoxin, especially for fish that are exposed to warmer waters or air. It is recommended that once fish has reached that temperature, size affects timing, transfer the fish to fish hold and cover with ice, or in the case of fish to be frozen transfer to blast or brine freezer. Further chilling towards the freezing point is also desirable to safe-guard against longer-term, low temperature development of histamine. Additionally, the shelf-life of the fish is significantly compromised when product temperature is not rapidly dropped to near freezing.
  4. The time required to lower the internal temperature of fish after capture will depend upon a number of factors, including:
  5. Unfrozen scombrotoxin-forming fish has a safe shelf life (days before elevated levels of histamine are formed) that is dependent upon the harvest methods, the on-board handling, and the time and temperature exposures throughout processing, transit and storage. This safe shelf-life can be as little as five to seven days for product stored at 4.4°C. Any exposure time above 4.4°C significantly reduces the expected safe shelf-life. For this reason, fish that have not been previously frozen should not be exposed to temperatures above 4.4°C for more than four hours cumulatively if any portion of that time is at temperatures above 21°C; or the fish should not be exposed to ambient temperatures above 4.4°C for more than eight hours, cumulatively, as long as no portion of that time is at temperatures above 21°C after chilling on board the harvest vessel. The safety of these limits is dependent upon proper handling at sea.
  6. Fish that have been previously frozen can safely withstand considerably more exposure to elevated temperatures during post-harvest handling. Such fish should not be exposed to temperatures above 4.4°C for more than 12 hours cumulatively if any portion of that time is at temperatures above 21°C or the fish should not be exposed to ambient temperatures above 4.4°C for more than 24 hours cumulatively as long as no portion of that time is at temperatures above 21°C, after chilling on board the harvest vessel. The safety of these limits is again dependent upon proper handling at sea.
  7. Keep fish well covered with ice or freeze to-18°C.
  8. For fresh fish storage prior to sale should be limited to two weeks maximum.
  9. When unloading ensure quick discharge to refrigerated truck, place the fish on a bed of ice and then cover them with more ice. Probe fish for temperature before them placing in the truck, and record temperature and consider rejecting if their temperature is above critical limits.
  10. Probe fish on arrival at factory and consider rejecting if their temperature is above critical limits.
  11. Place fish in ice bins or chillers.

3.7.2 Management tools used to ensure fish temperature is kept within limits to prevent formation of histamine (see Appendix 2)

  1. Follow approved supplier standard operating procedures declaration from vessels.
  2. Follow approved supplier shore based standard operating procedures.
  3. Use a fish purchase log.
  4. Use a fish processing chart.


The most obvious conclusion of this review is that the management of natural fish toxins in the Pacific has been neglected. Efforts need to be made to develop tools to prevent poisoning by these toxins. It is therefore suggested that the following points be implemented as soon as possible.

  1. Develop a project document for a Pacific Regional Ciguatera Initiative. Ciguatoxin is the major fish toxin and hazard in the Pacific and more work should be focused on the dangers posed by this toxin. A centre for marine toxins in the Pacific should be set up. The centre should be based in a known science establishment with an accredited laboratory. The University of the South Pacific (USP) is a leading academic institution in the South Pacific and the Institute of Applied Science (IAS) food analysis laboratory located at the USP is unique in the region. It is suggested that IAS host the proposed Centre for Marine Toxins. Work has to progress now before the initiative is lost. Queries to the two institutes, the SPC and IAS, did not produce any positive response as to direction and progress of the recommendations of the workshop. As reef fish fisheries could be a major contribution to the economies of the Pacific Islands and that the dominant hazard in the fishery is a fish toxin, then this initiative should not be lost.
  2. Legislate for the creation of competent authorities or the equivalent
  3. Creation of a ciguatera team and data base within the competent authorities
  4. Reactivate the Pacific region ciguatera database (SPC)
  5. Monitoring of the dinoflagellate abundance in the natural environment including the identification of the dominant Gambierdiscus species. This would involve local Fisheries Departments collaborating with an appropriate research institute that has the capability and facilities to do this part of the work.
  6. Evaluation of the toxin reservoir accumulated at the different levels of the food web
  7. Encourage more research on the ecology of ciguatera and environmental parameters responsible for outbreaks
  8. Identification of toxic fish species
  9. Education of local processors and the public on toxic fish species identification
  10. Setup a Pacific regional ciguatera website with relevant links to sources of information, research institutions, etc.
  11. Use of an effective ciguatera test kit. Kits so far developed have proven to be inadequate in areas other than Hawaii, consequently the development of an effective test kit is considered as urgently needed.
  12. Initiate a long-term in-country algal based field monitoring programme by Fisheries Departments
  13. Develop practical HACCP plans for ciguatera-prone countries. These plans should take into account the individual situation within companies.
  14. The Final Product Inspection Checklist for Chilled/Frozen Fish which is part of the Fish Quality Control Standards should be modified to include fish toxin inspection.


FDA 2001. Fish and Fisheries Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, Third Edition, June 2001.

Olsen, D.A., D.W. Nellis & R.S. Wood 1984. Ciguatera in the Eastern Caribbean. Mar.Fish. Rev. 46(1):13–18.

Yasumoto, T., U. Raj & R. Bagnis 1984. Seafood Poisoning in Tropical Regions. This publication was prepared in conjunction of the “Symposium on Seafood Toxins in the Tropical Regions”held at Research Center for the South Pacific, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, 26 September 1983. Sponsored by the Toyota Foundation. Published in 1984 by the Laboratory of Food Hygiene, Faculty of Agriculture, Tohuku University, Japan.74 pp.

Approved supplier standard operating procedures declaration for fish handling

FISHING VESSEL:                                       
OWNER:                                       (date :                 )
CAPTAIN:                                       (date :                 )

This is to verify that the following standard operating procedures for on-board fish handling are practiced on this vessel and that any significant deviation from these practices will be noted and the receiver notified prior to unloading. This VSOP is submitted in cooperation with the receivers HACCP - based Quality Assurance Program especially those efforts focused on the prevention of ciguatera and histamine accumulation in susceptible fish species.

Fishing method:

Refrigeration method:


The fish holds are cleaned and sanitized after each trip using dilute chlorine bleach solution (specifically, sodium hypochlorite solution of 100ppm). Clean new ice made from potable water is loaded into the fish hold at the start of each fishing trip.

Fish holds are not used to store fuel. Fish holds are kept free of chemicals and lubricants used on-board the vessel.

Fish handling method:

Fish are handled carefully, kept clean and chilled rapidly in order to prevent the potential formation of histamine in susceptible fish species.

Fish are landed individually by hook and line, gaffed and immediately. The fish are rinsed with seawater and placed immediately into an ice slurry. This process takes no more than 15 minutes.

Fish are allowed to chill in the slurry for no less than 6 hours. Fish should be chilled to an internal temperature of 50oF within 6 hours of capture. Fish are placed in ice or refrigerated seawater for the final chilling period.

On ice vessels ice is repacked around the fish after 6 hours to ensure proper chilling. Fish temperatures are brought down to 32oF within a total of 24 hours of capture. Fish are kept properly iced during storage on-board the vessel to maintain a constant 32oF until unloading.

On refrigerated seawater vessels the temperature of the RSW is maintained at a temperature of 28oF

Fish species:

The following fish species will be treated as export fish and treated in the manner described in the HACCP Plan. Fish not on this list will be stored separately and not included in the APPROVED SUPPLIER STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES DECLARATION.

Common nameScientific name
Pink snapper, OpakapakaPristipomoides filamentosus
Longtail snapper, OnagaEtelis coruscans
Red snapper, EhuEtelis carbunculus
Red jobfish, LehiAphareus rutilans
Purple cheek opakapakaPristipomoides multidens
Yellow-fined opakapakaPristipomoides flavipinnis

Approved supplier shore based standard operating procedures

Supplier Name                          

Suppliers Address                    

Suppliers Signature                  

The names and positions and the persons responsible for the maintenance of the Approved Supplier Agreement (ASA) by both parties;

Supplier's ASA manager name                   & Signature                   The Gourmet Food Company ASA manager name                   & Signature

The scope of the ASA (which input materials are covered);

The specifications of the input material, such as microbiological, labeling requirements and other intrinsic factors such as temperature, ciguatera certificate, Aw, etc.;

Specific controls which the supplier must have in place during production and or distribution

Specific analytical tests which must be conducted and copies of certificates which must accompany lots.

Criteria for the selection, monitoring and verification of supplier(s).

The Quality Management Plan must contain the following details of the verification procedures:

The name and position of the person who is responsible for the verification activities;


How the verification is to be conducted; (On-site audit)


The frequency of verification.


Records of the results of monitoring and verification and any corrective actions arising from the evaluations shall be maintained.


DateBatch no.
Fish species 
Purchased from 
Boat name 
Method of preservation (Ice) 
No. of pieces 
Weight of fish purchased 
Cost per kilo$
Total Value$
Cheque No. 
Internal temp of fish at purchase If temperature greater than 5°C Reject
Organoleptic test of individual fish If fish smells or looks bad Reject
Method of transport to factory 
Temp in truck 
Time fish spent in truckTime put in truck Time arrival at Factory Total time 
Fish stored in refrigerator or freezer (at Delivery) 
Daily temp record chart # 
Data transferred to log sheet 2. 
Signature of purchaser / Driver


DateBatch no.
Item Data
Species verification 
Date unloaded 
Organoleptic and visual assessment of quality (CCP) Reject if test fails
Internal Temperature @ depot arrival (CCP) If greater than 4.4 C Consider reject / time
Stored in Chiller in ice 
Date removed from Chiller 
Time fish packing begins & ends & internal temperature (CCP)Time begin Time end 
Temp Temp 
Internal Temperature @ Removal From Chilling medium (CCP) If greater than 4.4c consider reject
Temperature final product stored in cartons in Chiller @ 
Destination & date shipped 
Production problems:
Action(s) taken:
Factory Supervisor

Status of deep-sea line fisheries other than for tuna species in the Philippines

J.O. Dickson
Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
860 Arcadia Bldg, Quezon Av.
Quezon City, Philippines


1.1 Geographical location

The Philippines lies in Southeastern Asia, an archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam and comprises over 7000 islands. The marine surface area covers 2200 000 km2 and the coastal waters an area of 266000 km2. The oceanic waters cover an area of 1934 000 km2. The shelf area, to a depth of 200 m is 184 600 km2 in area. The area of coral reefs is 27000 km2 and are located within the 10–20 fathoms where reef fisheries occur (Fig.1).

Philippine marine jurisdictional boundaries


1.2 Major fisheries

Major pelagic fisheries target surface fish species in coastal waters during monsoon winds and in most open waters during calm weather. Fishes caught include roundscad, sardines, chubmackerel, Spanish mackerel, anchovies, cavallas, big-eyed scad, yellowfin tuna, skipjack and frigate mackerel. Demersal resources are usually caught by trawlnets, modified Danish seine, bottom gillnets, longline, and handlines. Fishes caught by this gear include Nemipterus sp., Leiognathus sp., Upeneus sp., Mugil sp., Secianidaesp. and crustaceans such as prawns, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, squid and cuttlefish. The demersal fisheries may also include reef fisheries (BAS 1997).

1.3 Fisheries production

The country’s fisheries sector is categorized into municipal, commercial and aquaculture. Generally, municipal fishing refers to fishing within the municipal waters using fishing vessels of three gross tons or less, or fishing not requiring the use of fishing vessels. Commercial fishing refers to the taking of fishery species by passive or active gear for trade, business or profit using vessels of more than 3 gross tons.

In 2002 (BFAR 2002), the fishing industry performance showed a 6.4 percent growth compared to the previous year of 5.8 percent. Production grew from 3166530t in 2001 to 3369306 t in 2002 (Fig.2). Out of the total fish production for 2002, commercial fisheries represented 30.9 percent (1042193 t) and municipal fisheries 29.4percent (988938t). In terms of value, 5.9 percent growth was realized from a total of P106.9billion attained in 2001 to P113.2 billion in 2002. Table 1 shows the volume of fish production, by sector from 1993 to 2002.

Table 1
Volume of fish production (tonnes)

20021 338 175988 9381 042 1933 369 306
20011 220 456969 535976 5393 166 530
20001 100 902945 945946 4852 993 332
19991 048 679926 339948 7542 923 772
1998997 841891 146940 5332 829 520
1997984 439924 466884 6512 793 556
19961 007 676909 248879 0732 795 997
1995940 589972 043893 2322 805 864
1994869 083992 578859 3282 720 989
1993793 6201 013 969824 3562 631 945

Trend of fish production (1993–2002)


Fisheries production increased from 2632 million tonnes at P70.2 billion in 1993 to 3369million tonnes at P113.2 billion in 2002. The annual growth rates attained during these periods were 2.8 percent (volume) and 5.4 percent (value).

In terms of commercial fisheries production by gear sector, 51.8 percent is taken by purse seine, followed by ringnet (17.0 percent). For municipal fisheries production, gillnet is the highest production (32.2 percent), followed by hook and line (21.4percent).

Table 2
Average percentage share of total production by major fishing gears, 1992–1995 (tonnes*)

Fishing gear1992199319941995Average% share
Commercial804 866824 356859 328893 232845 446100.00
Purse seine467 498425 261400 246459 229438 04451.81
Ringnet109 418138 195182 614145 676143 97617.03
Trawl90 54786 96588 42366 08983 0069.82
Danish seine45 34278 06174 50993 32572 8098.61
Bagnet53 39653 88976 49977 89165 4197.74
Hook and line24 89426 33021 17324 27024 1672.86
Others13 83115 65515 86426 75218 0252.13
Municipal854 687803 194786 847785 369807 524100.00
Gillnet283 854249 860249 710258 021260 36132.24
Hook and line153 157166 792183 902187 502172 83821.40
Beach seine55 67344 85057 21640 10149 4606.12
Fish corral66 82948 94338 15531 05646 2465.73
Ringnet34 29434 95532 30840 51635 5184.40
Baby trawl36 70541 92327 27723 51732 3564.01
Spear15 31125 54025 14227 91023 4762.91
Long line19 93725 24422 93624 88523 2502.88
Danish seine21 14227 25917 14611 77619 3312.39
Fish pot11 73917 81119 36116 53216 3612.03
Bagnet23 95117 35213 8388 66315 9511.98
Crab lift net32 27315 8637 9136 14815 5491.92
Purse seine11 29622 49110 21414 57614 6441.81
Others88 52664 31181 72994 16682 18310.81

* Note: Fish production by fishing gear is only available up to 1995.


Municipal waters include the marine area between two lines drawn perpendicular to the general coastline from points where the boundary lines of the municipality touch the sea and a third line parallel with the general coastline including offshore islands and 15 km from such coastline. National waters include marine water areas beyond 15 km from coastline, which can be considered a commercial jurisdiction. It may also include the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea; the EEZ extends 200 nautical miles from the baselines defined by existing law.


The marine fish resources may be classified into pelagic and demersal fish. The soft-bottom demersal fishes are caught by bottom trawls and include slipmouths, flatfishes, goatfishes, nemipterids, croakers, whitings, mojarras, theraponids, pomadasids, lizard fishes and other related species. The hard bottom demersal fishes include those taken on coral reefs. These are fishes occupying hard grounds or reef areas where bottom trawling cannot be conducted. At present “pa-aling”is the most common and efficient gear used for the large scale exploitation of snappers, siganids, lethrinids, surgeon fishes, leaf fishes and other related species.

It is estimated that there are 4.4 million hectares of coral reefs within the 40 fathoms contour interspersed with the country’s 7100 islands. Within the 10–20 fathoms contour, where the majority of reef fishing occurs, coral reefs cover approximately 2.7million hectares.

The demersal fish landings comprise between 25 percent and 40 percent of the total marine landings and are carried out primarily over the local shelf (0–200 m). Slipmouths have consistently dominated demersal catches in recent years representing on the average 15.5 percent of the total landings. Shrimp and squid are also important species in the demersal fishery because of their high value on international markets. Squid is seen as having potential for expanded fishing effort since local stocks are believed to be substantially underutilized. (FSDP 1988).

Demersal fish and invertebrate stocks in the Philippines are estimated to have a potential annual yield of 500000t to 700000 t. The lower limit of this potential yield had essentially been reached with the adoption of increasingly more efficient harvesting practices, particularly in nearshore areas. Fishing effort already exceeds sustainable levels in major bays.


4.1 Introduction

At present, only the marine fish resources of the continental shelf areas are exploited by fisherman, particularly by trawlers, purse seiner and gillnets. The fishing grounds in deeper areas have not been harvested to their maximum yet because of limited technology and investment though there are already some fishing gears exploiting these resources. However, the available data are insufficient to plan development and research is necessary to determine resource abundance and distribution.

Deepwater fishing are defined as those in more than 100 metres depth. Trawl, fish trap, hook and line, bottom gillnet and modified drive in net “pa-aling”are some of familiar fishing gears used for the capture of demersal resources (Munprasit et al. 1995).

4.2 Bottom set longline

Different fishing areas in the country have specific types of fishery resources. One species is the spiny dogfish shark (Family Squalidae), which is exploited by the bottom set longline gear. The shark has an economic value as fish meat and is processed into fish ball and fish meal and the liver is used for its oil (crude squalene oil).

The fishing grounds are sandy and muddy and the average depth of the water is about 395fathoms. The gear used is a modification of the Japanese longline set as a bottom longline. There are three sections of the gear, namely; the anchorline, mainline and the branch lines.

Anchor lines consist of two pieces monofilament about 3mm diameter with a breaking strength of about 260 lb/m. The accessories attached to the anchor lines are (a) two units of bamboo raft buoy, (b) two pieces of flagpoles, each about 10 feet long and (c), two pieces of suspension weight for the flagpoles. The anchor line is held in a vertical position from the water surface to the bottom by means of the bamboo raft buoy and the anchor weights. The total length of the anchor line depends on the depth of the fishing ground.

Mainlines vary from 1500 to 3000 m length and is made of monofilament about 2.5mm in diameter with a breaking strength of about 210 lb/m. Two or more mainlines may be linked to each other by a swivel made of brass or stainless steel. Lead sinkers (no. 2) are tightly clamped along the mainline 20–25 m apart. The number of lead sinkers depends on the total length of the mainline.

Branch lines are made of monofilament about 1.5mm diameter with a breaking strength of about 110lb. At the free end of the line is the wire leader holding the hook. Each branch line is about 1.5 m long and is hung from the mainline at intervals of 3.5 m. The leader wire is about 5 inches long and of wire gauge no.7 with a breaking strength of 69 lb. The number of hooks depend on the number of branch lines.

The fishing craft are motorized bancas with an outrigger measuring about 8 m long by 0.5 m wide and 0.5 m deep. They are powered by gasoline engines of 16 HP. The fishing craft is usually manned by two fishermen. The gear is set at night and allowed to lie on the seabed for about five hours until about sunrise and then hauled manually. The main catch is dogfish, followed by eel fish, grouper, elephant fish and several species of common sharks. The estimated catch rate is one shark per nine hooks.

4.3 Bottom vertical longline

The primary mainline is suspended horizontally 20 m above the sea bottom (Figure 3) It is held in place by two buoy lines at each end. Each buoy line is tied to a float at one end and to a weight at the other. The secondary mainline hangs vertically from the primary mainline and is attached every 50 m along the mainline. It is held in place vertically with a float at the upper end and a weight that touches the seabed. Each secondary mainline holds a series of seven hooks, distributed equidistantly. The hooks are attached to the secondary mainline with a branch line, which consists of a 0.3 m cord, attached to a 0.9 m stainless steel wire, which in turn is attached to the hook.

Bottom set longline


The bottom vertical longline can be used both in moderately deep and in shallow and rough fishing grounds where other fishing gears cannot be used. The bottom vertical longline can be operated on any type of seabed, which is its advantage over the traditional bottom set longline.

The traditional bottom set longline is more liable to be damaged when the fishing gear touches the bottom and the set hooks may become entangled with rocks and other bottom obstacles. This may cause the loss of the entire gear. On the other hand, the primary mainline of the bottom vertical longline is suspended at a distance of 20 m from the bottom. Only the weights touch the bottom, thus reducing the chance of the hooks fouling the seabed. The gear also has the same limitations as other line gears such as, (a) the catch is limited by the number of hooks, (b)suitable baits for target species must be obtained and (c), the boat has to be kept above the shoal or edges of the island slope or ocean banks during fishing operations.

Bottom vertical longlines consist of:

  1. Buoy lines - two pieces of polyamide (PA), 6 mm in diameter, 200 m long, which are used to keep the primary mainline horizontally in place. The upper ends are tied to marker buoys and the lower ends are held down by weights. It is provided with a foot-long eye splice at both ends to make tying and untying of parts easy. (See Table 3 for gear specifications)
  2. Primary mainline - a 2250 m long polyamide 5 mm in diameter, provided with a 30 cm eye splice at both ends tied to the buoy lines. The secondary mainlines are attached to this line.

Table 3
Fishing gear specifications (Bottom Vertical Longline)

No.Gear partsMaterialsSizesLengthQuantity pieces
ABuoy linePolyamide PA6 mm200 m2
BPrimary mainline-do-5 mm50 m50
CSecondary mainline-do-4 mm20 m50
DBranch lineMonofilament1.51300
EStainless wireSteel1420 cm300
FHooks-do-12, 13, 14-300
G1FloatSynthetic3000 g-6
H1SinkerLead8 kg-2
H2-do--do-700 kg-50
I2 -do-0/4-300

The fish baits used are frigate mackerel, round scad, big-eyed scad and other similar species. The sizes of the baits ranges from 15 to 20 pcs/kg. About 20 kg of fish are needed to complete one setting operation of a longline with 300 hooks.

The bottom vertical longline is set once or twice a day, either before sunset or at sunrise. The fishing gear is baited and prepared by the crew upon reaching the fishing ground. The location, depth, nature of bottom, current and wind direction are noted to determine the length of float line to be used. The boat s speed is about 2–3 knots during the shooting of the gear. The boat stops whenever there are snags until the line is released.

The shooting of the gear starts with the release of the flagged marker buoy and the laying out of the buoy line, weights and primary mainline. This is followed by attaching the secondary mainline at distances of 50 m until last of the 43 pieces of secondary mainline has been released with a marker buoy at the end. The gear is left in the water for three hours before hauling. An improvised line hauler is used to lift the gear. While the primary mainline is being rolled, the secondary mainline, are detached and coiled separately. The fishes caught are removed from the hooks and placed in baskets.

4.4 Fleet handline fishing

In Palawan waters there are many coral reefs and continental slopes. A group of fishermen (5–10) is formed to use one banca each and they operate over coral reefs or continental slopes using a hook and line. The 5-meter bancas are carried in a bigger banca (10 m × 1 m × 1 m) that has a wide outrigger platform. The mother boat is powered by a diesel engine and carry provisions for a month-long trip including crushed ice to preserve the catch.

Upon reaching a good fishing ground, the small bancas are released and handline for the whole day. Before sunset, their catches are taken by the mother boat into the fish hold, recorded by weight, species, and name of the fishermen. When the fish hold is full or when the provisions are consumed, the mother boat returns to its homeport and sells the catch. Salaries of the fishermen are paid by the owner after deducting operating expenses.

The major species caught are snapper, grouper, nemipterids and other coral reef fishes. The scheme of operations is successful since the area is not frequented by many typhoons and is a productive fishing area for demersal species.

4.5 Single banca hook and line fishing

The hook and line structure varies in design and modes of construction. In general, a handline consists of a mainline, secondary mainline, hook and sinker. Other accessories include a wooden or bamboo spool for coiling the line, a swivel to prevent the line from twisting and a stainless wire to protect the hook from loss due to fish bites.

A simple hook and line has only one hook but several hooks are now common, especially for catching sea bream, grouper and snappers. Hook and lines can be used for either pelagic, mid-water or demersal species. Natural baits such as fish, squid and artificial baits such as plastic and silk materials which resemble a shrimp, squid or octopus are used.

Fishermen use single and multiple hooks for demersal fishes. They use an outriggered banca measuring 4 to 5 m. Nylon monofilament, 1.2 to 2.00 mm, is used. The primary and secondary mainlines have multiple hooks and branch lines of 0.45 mm to 1.0 mm connected to the swivels of the mainline. Hook size and shape vary depending on the target species. The swivels of different sizes and shapes are made of brass. One peculiar innovation in the bottom hook and line is the provision of a bait bag in which small fish, or ground up fish, are placed. As it reaches the desired depth, the line is jerked to release the bait attracting fish schools and thus increasing the catch.


5.1 Municipal fisheries

The management of contiguous fishery resources such as in bays which straddle several municipalities, cities or provinces, should be done in an integrated manner and should not be based on political subdivisions of municipal waters, to facilitate their management as single resource systems. The local government units (LGUs) that share or border such resources may group themselves and coordinate with each other to achieve the objectives of integrated fishery resource management.

Under Section 17 on the Grant of Fishing Privileges in Municipal Waters (Senate of Philippines 1998), preference shall be given to registered fisherfolk organizations and cooperatives in the grant of fishery rights by the Municipal or City Council. These are special agencies or offices vested with jurisdiction over municipal waters by virtue of special laws creating these agencies such as, but not limited to, the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

Section23 of the legislation provides that if there is a need to regenerate fishery resources in the water based of evidence of overfishing, the LGU shall prohibit or limit fishery activities in the said waters. Under Section24, support to municipal fisherfolk shall be provided through appropriate technology and research, credit, production and marketing assistance and other services such as training for supplementary livelihoods.

5.2 Commercial fisheries

Various regulations have relevance to deepwater fisheries. Under Section 32 of the legislation, fishing vessels of Philippine registry may operate in international waters or waters of other countries that allow such fishing operations with provisions for compliance to manning and other requirements of the Philippine Coast Guard, Maritime Industry Authority and other agencies concerned and requires that they secure an international fishing permit and certificate of clearance from the Department. Fish caught by such vessels shall be considered as caught in Philippine waters and therefore shall not be subject to all import duties and taxes when landed in duly designated fish landings and fish ports in the Philippines. Crews on Philippine-registered vessels fishing beyond the Philippine EEZ are not considered as overseas Filipino workers. Section 35 provides incentives for commercial fishers to fish farther into the EEZ to encourage fishing vessel operators.

Section 38 provides that the detailed reports of the actual fishing operation are required by the Department for recording information and management purposes.

Section 42 states that foreign fishing vessels wishing to use land, air and sea facilities in the Philippines to transport fishery products, which are caught outside Philippine territorial waters, to final destinations may only call at duly designated government owned or controlled regional fishport complexes after securing clearance from the Department. Rule 42.2 indicates that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in cooperation with the PFDA shall designate regional fishing ports as authorized transshipment points.


One programme within the ASEAN-SEAFDEC 5-year Plan is for harvesting of underexploited resources in member countries. SEAFDEC will be conducting a workshop and project proposals will be submitted. There are also initiatives from neighboring countries where there exists deepsea fishing especially for deep-sea red snapper.

A workshop will be conducted on 20–21 January 2004 in collaboration with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center for the preparation of standardized methods on research and assessment of fishes in continental shelf slope, rough bottom and deep-water areas where bottom trawls cannot be operated.

In the Philippines, there are many non-trawlable grounds such as the Palawan area, Polillo, Batanes, Catanduanes, Sulu and Eastern and Southern Mindanao. Most of the fisheries in these areas are underexploited. Many commercial fishes are known to be found on the continental shelf slope or rough bottom areas where the depth of waters is more than 150 m and can only be harvested by bottom longline, bottom gillnets and traps.


BFAP Fisheries and Economics Division 2002. Philippine Fisheries Profile. BFAR, Quezon City.

BAS (Bureau of Agricultural Statistics) 1997. Fisheries Statistics of the Philippines 1993–1997. BAS, Quezon City.

Munprasit, A., S. Siriraksophon, P. Masthawee, B. Chokesanguan, S. Sae-ung, S.Soodhom, J.O.Dickson & Y. Matsunaga 1995. Fishing Gear and Methods in Southeast Asia: III. The Philippines. SEAFDEC, Thailand.

PFDA/BFAR/Agrodev Project Team 1988. Fisheries Sector Development Program, Philippines: Draft Sector Study Report. Quezon Ave., Quezon City.

Senate of the Philippines. The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998: RA No. 8550. Pasay City.

Bottomfish management and monitoring in the main Hawaiian islands

W.N. Ikehara
1601 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1110
Honolulu, HI 96814-4700, USA


The deep-slope red snappers, the onaga (Etelis coruscans), or ulaula koae (in Hawaii), and the ehu (Etelis carbunculus), or ulaula (in Hawaii), have been the focus of a comprehensive management programme by the State of Hawaii’s fishery management agency, the Department of Land and Natural Resources’(DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources since 1995. These fish are found throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago at depths of 100–150 fathoms (183–274 m) and can occasionally be caught deeper. They are considered to be part of the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery, which catches deep-slope snappers, groupers, and jacks with vertical handline gear, sometimes operated with electric or hydraulic reels, in depths of 50–150 fathoms (91–274 m). The opakapaka, or pink snapper (Pristipomoides filamentosus), well-known in fine restaurants, is also caught in this fishery, as well as the hapuu, the Hawaiian grouper (Epinephelus quernus). An overview of the fishery can be found in Haight, Kobayashi and Kawamoto (1993).

The 2400 km long Hawaiian Archipelago consists of 132 islands and atolls (Figure 1). The Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) are the eight major inhabited islands from Hawaii at the southeast end of the archipelago up through Kauai and Niihau. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are the largely unpopulated islands, atolls and reefs northwest of Kauai and Niihau. Traditionally, these two areas were managed separately, although the populations of onaga and ehu are now considered genetically indistinguishable across the archipelago. The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council manages limited entry fisheries in two zones in the NWHI, the Hoomalu zone (NW half of the archipelago) and the Mau zone, the small area between the Hoomalu zone and the MHI because about 80 percent of the bottomfishing grounds in the NWHI are in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ). About 80 percent of the bottomfishing grounds in the MHI are within state waters and managed are by the DLNR.

The Hawaiian Archipelago


Targeted CPUE for MHI Onaga (Etelis coruscans) and Ehu (E. carbunculus)


MHI onaga (E. coruscans) mean weight and percent immature


There were 225904 kg of all species of bottomfish landed commercially in 2000 from the Main Hawaiian Islands. Of these, 119090 kg were landed from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Of those landed in the MHI in 2000, 40454 kg were onaga and 15909 kg were ehu. An estimated 495vessels made 3810 trips in the MHI for bottomfish in 2000. In comparison, 41818 kg of onaga and 5909 kg of ehu were harvested by 11 vessels making 83 trips in the NWHI (WPRFMC 2003).

Ex-vessel revenues from the bottomfish fishery in the entire Hawaiian Archipelago were $US2550000 in 2000. The aggregate ex-vessel price of all species of MHI bottomfish combined was $US8.00/kg. The all-species aggregate price for NWHI bottomfish was generally lower ($US7.92/kg). The 2000 onaga average ex-vessel price was $US11.11/kg and for ehu was $US8.58/kg (both MHI and NWHI).


The onaga and ehu have always been a highly valued fish in Hawaii. Their bright red color signifies good luck in Asian culture and these fish are often served on ceremonial occasions where the symbolic meaning is important. The red snappers are popular, even raw as sashimi, in both restaurants and for home consumption. They have unique Hawaiian names, reflecting that they were caught and valued by early Hawaiians as well.

The Division of Aquatic Resources has kept statistics on commercial landings of fish since 1948. There were estimates of landings before 1948, but only since then was a system developed for fishermen to report their catches to the Hawaii territorial, then to the State government. The reports indicate clearly that the catch rates of onaga and ehu have declined steadily since the early 1950s and have dropped even more steeply in the 10 to 15 years previous to 1998 (Figure 2). As the catch rates have dropped, so has the proportion of mature fish in the landings. About 84 percent of the commercial landings of onaga from the main Hawaiian Islands in 2000 were immature (Figure 3). Onaga live for 7–10 years, and must attain a large size, to reach maturity. The high proportion of immature fish in the landings may indicate that the spawning population has been depleted in theMHI.

Researchers at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, have been studying the bottomfish fishery for many years. NMFS scientists have been reporting that onaga and ehu in the Main Hawaiian Islands have been overfished since at least 1989. They base their assessment on several indicators, including the high proportion of immature fish in the landings, declining catch rates and the dynamic Spawning Potential Ratio (SPR). The SPR uses catch rates and size-frequencies to calculate an index that compares the estimated spawning biomass of the current year's fish population to an estimate of the virgin spawning biomass (WPRFMC 2003).

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) manages domestic fisheries in the U.S. EEZ of Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and other U.S. Pacific islands by mandate of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Council established that an SPR of 20 percent represents a “red light” threshold for overfishing in the Hawaiian Islands bottomfish fisheries. In the Main Hawaiian Islands for 2001, onaga SPR was about three percent and ehu SPR about 11 percent, based on targeted catch rates (Figure 4, WPRFMC 2003). MHI onaga SPR has been below 20 percent since 1989 and ehu SPR below 20 percent since at least 1986. In contrast, the SPR for onaga and ehu in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are well above 20 percent. In addition, MHI onaga have a high proportion of immature fish in the landings and recent MHI ehu catch rates are less than ten percent of the catch rate in 1948.

Targeted spawning potential ratio for (MHI) onaga and ehu



3.1 Consultation process

The WPRFMC had been urging the State of Hawaii to take action to manage and conserve onaga and ehu in the Main Hawaiian Islands since the early 1990s. In 1995, the DLNR Chairperson Michael Wilson committed the DLNR to develop a comprehensive management plan for MHI onaga and ehu. Wilson established an ad hoc advisory task force of recreational and commercial fishermen from all over the state, representatives from the fishing industry, and fishery managers, scientists, and enforcement personnel from other government agencies. Under the leadership of the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), the task force met throughout 1995 and developed a set of management proposals.

The key conservation measure favored by the task force was the Restricted Fishing Area wherein bottomfishing would be prohibited. They believed that RFAs would provide more long-term protection and opportunity for rebuilding the population than measures such as closed seasons or minimum sizes. Closed seasons provide no protection for spawners outside the limited closure period. Minimum size measures work well for fish that can be released safely, reducing mortality on undersized fish, but would not likely be successful for bottomfish, which are difficult to bring to the surface without embolizing and inevitably subsequent high mortality.

The task force proposals were presented to groups of fishermen statewide in informational roundtable discussions to get feedback and suggestions for the proposals. The feedback included suggestions for locations of the RFAs. Then DAR turned the proposals into a draft administrative rule, which was presented at further statewide public informational meetings with fishermen.

Finally, the draft administrative rule was presented and reviewed at formal public hearings statewide. A required step in establishing administrative rules is public hearings where proposed regulations are presented to the public and testimonies from the public are collected. In all, more than 42 meetings (including advisory panel meetings and informal meetings) were held with fishermen all over the state. Fishermen were actively sought out for their suggestions and comments. Many responded with ideas and recommendations, some of which were used in the final administrative rule.

The administrative rule was revised and presented to the Board of Land and Natural Resources on 13 March 1998 for approval. The rule was revised slightly and resubmitted to the Board and approved on 24 April 1998. The Attorney General approved the revised rule and Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano signed it on 22 May 1998. The rule went into effect 1 June 1998, thereupon having the effect of law.

3.2 Summary of the regulations

The new regulations are contained in Hawaii Administrative Rule Chapter 13–94. The rule established new regulations on fishing for certain deep-slope snappers and groupers commonly called bottomfish in Hawaii. The purpose of the Chapter was to establish management of these species and regulate the fisheries that affect them in the main Hawaiian Islands, extending from the island of Hawaii to Niihau. The following is a summary of the rule.

§13-94-5 Bottomfish Species

“Bottomfish”are defined as the seven deep-slope species for the purposes of this Chapter. They include onaga, ehu, kalekale (Pristipomoides sieboldii), opakapaka, ukikiki or gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus), hapu`u, and lehi (Aphareus rutilans). These species are included because their depth ranges overlap onaga and ehu and because the fishery is a multi-species fishery. It would be difficult to conserve onaga and ehu inside a closed area if the other species were allowed to be harvested, since onaga and ehu would likely be caught incidentally.

§13-94-6 Restricted bottomfish fishing gears

This article prohibits use or possession of nets, traps, trawls or bottomfish longline when fishing for bottomfish species defined in 13-94-5. Possession of both prohibited gear and bottomfish is a violation. This is intended to prevent ghost fishing, habitat destruction or use of too-efficient gears. It is intended to allow the use of traditional vertical handline gear only.

§13-94-7 Non-commercial bag limits

This article limits a non-commercial fisherman (without a valid Commercial Marine Licence issued by the department) to possessing a maximum of five onaga or ehu, or five in total of both.

§13-94-8 Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas

This article prohibits bottomfishing and, or, possession of bottomfish within restricted fishing areas. It is unlawful to take, or possess, bottomfish while in a vessel drifting or anchored within a restricted area except for emergencies. The DLNR will select areas, considering where adult onaga and ehu are caught, close 20 percent of onaga and ehu fishing areas, distribute restricted areas statewide, consider suggestions from bottomfish fishermen, etc. Areas can be modified or established by a formal Board of Land and Natural Resources meeting. The Board of Land and Natural Resources may, in a publicly advertised Board meeting, modify or rate new restricted fishing areas. Restricted fishing areas are to be reviewed and evaluated for effectiveness by the DLNR in consultation with fishermen and other relevant parties no later than 1 July 2003. The RFAs do not prohibit other activities, such as fishermen transiting the area or trolling or handlining for pelagic species.

Figure 5 shows the general locations of the Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas (in red) in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Note: the inside boundaries of the areas generally follow the 100 fm (183 m) contour. The areas were arbitrarily selected based on several factors.

§13-94-9 Bottomfishing fishing vessel identification

Vessel owners must register their vessels with the DLNR to obtain an identification number. It is unlawful for any vessel to take, or possess, bottomfish species without a departmental registration.

The identification number makes use of existing vessel numbering systems where established and displayed including state vessel registration, federal fishery permit numbers, or US Coast Guard vessel documentation numbers. Registered vessels display the letters BF to ndicate that they are registered with the department to fish for bottomfish.

Bottomfish restricted fishing areas in the main Hawaiian islands


A total of 3552 vessel owners registered their vessels for bottomfishing from June 1998 through October 2004. About 57 percent are commercial fishing vessels and the rest are non-commercial vessels, which could be classified as recreational, although it is likely that many of the so-called recreational vessels may sell a portion of the catch. The lengths of registered vessels range from 8–65 ft (2.4–19.8 m), with a mode at 19 ft (5.8 m). The registrations by island show that non-commercial vessels tend to dominate on the main island of Oahu, which is more metropolitan than some of the other islands (Figure 6).

BF vessel registrations by island, as required by Hawai'i Administrative Rule Chapter 13–94


§13-94-10 Establish control date

This regulation sets a date that may be used to qualify applicants for a future limited entry programme for commercial bottomfish fishing, if one is developed by the DLNR. It does not bind the DLNR to establish a limited entry programme, but if it does, fishermen entering the fishery after the control date may not be guaranteed that they will get a limited entry permit. The control date was set on 1June1998. The full administrative rules, including maps, can be obtained at <>.

3.3 Public outreach and education

As part of a public education programme, 38 000 copies of a bottomfish management brochure were printed and distributed to inform fishermen of the new regulations and restricted fishing areas. The brochure included maps and coordinates marking the locations of the RFAs. Extensive coverage of the campaign was provided by local newspapers and media. A web site was created to provide information and registration instructions see <>.


4.1 DLNR-HIMB Bottomfish Project

The DLNR has supported a long-term research programme since 1997 led by DrChristopher Kelley at the University of Hawaii's Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. This programme began with a number of objectives.

  1. Identify and characterize critical habitat, particularly nursery grounds, for onaga, ehu, opakapaka, and kalekale within the main Hawaiian Islands
  2. Develop methods to capture live specimens for the purpose of conducting experimental studies on their physiological tolerance ranges, growth and reproduction
  3. Conduct a genetic analysis of fish captured from different locations to determine the population structure of these species in the Hawaiian Islands
  4. Develop methods to maintain live fish in captivity and initiate experiments on survival and growth rate under different physiological conditions.

These goals have been expanded to include development of an acoustic method for identifying bottomfish species and quantifying mixed species aggregations in situ, high-resolution mapping (Benoit-Bird et al. 2003), characterization of bottomfish habitats with multibeam sonar (Kelley et al. 2000), development of a GIS database, development of acoustic tagging and tracking of bottomfish species and development of egg, fry and juvenile production technology for bottomfish.

There are three divisions working on different parts of the project.

Field: Identify and characterize essential fish habitat, particularly nursery grounds, for onaga, ehu and other species of deepwater snappers in the main Hawaiian Islands. This has included high-resolution mapping of bottomfishing grounds, observation of bottomfish habitat and environment in situ from a research submersible and a remote-operated underwater vehicle, fishing surveys of grounds and assistance in developing non-lethal assessment methods.

Laboratory: Conduct genetic analysis of onaga and ehu captured from different locations in the Hawaiian Archipelago and the Pacific to determine the population structure of these species in the Hawaiian Islands (Chow et al. 2000). This analysis has been extended to hapuu.

Hatchery: Develop methods to maintain deepwater snappers in captivity and initiate experiments on survival and growth rate under different physiological conditions. The hatchery staff succeeded in maintaining opakapaka for extended periods and inducing spawning in captivity (Figure 7). They have recently succeeded at releasing second generation opakapaka juveniles back into the wild (C. Kelley, Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, pers.comm.). They have also kept ehu alive in captivity for limited periods and hatched onaga larvae in the laboratory from strip-spawned onaga at sea.

130 day old opakapaka (P. filamentosus) spawned and raised in captivity

(courtesy of A. Moriwake, Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology)


The results of surveys from submersible dives indicate that essential habitat for these snappers consists of a hard substrate that can either be carbonate, basalt or mudstone. Suitable substrate had a relatively large number of holes and crevices that served as shelter for the smaller fish and shrimp that onaga and ehu presumably feed on. In pinnacle habitats in particular, the abundance of small fish and invertebrates was similar if not greater than that observed in shallow water coral reef habitats. Onaga and ehu, as well as their potential prey species were absent over sand substrates as well as hard substrates with few holes. The presence of one species of potential prey fish, Symphysanodon maunaloae, appeared to be highly correlated with the presence of ehu and onaga on these dives as well as subsequent dives undertaken as part of a related project. Several potential competitor species were also observed in these habitats including the hogo (Pontinus macrocephalus), moray eels, (Gymnothorax berndti and G. nuttingi), kalekale (Pristipomoides sieboldii) and the hapuu (Epinephelus quernus). Bait stations have resulted in excellent video images of onaga and ehu species that are considered to be difficult to photograph due their avoidance of light (Figure 8). Lights-out bait stations also provided some new insights into the coloration and appearance of these fish under their natural lighting conditions. Of particular interest was the fact that yellow bars and stripes produced distinctive black markings at depths of 300 m that are likely to be species recognition signals. (Kelley, Mundy and Grau 1997, Kelley et al. 2000, Kelley 2002a, 2002b).

4.2 Interactions of nonindigenous blueline snapper (Taape) with native fishery species

Dr James Parrish and graduate students at the Hawai'i Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit (HCFRU) at the University of Hawai'i studied the effect that the introduced blue lined snapper (Lutjanus kasmira) might have on native bottomfish (Parrish et al. 2000). There are a number of potential interactions between taape and deep-water snappers that could affect the fishery. These include: (a) predation by taape on snappers or vice versa, (b) competition for food between taape and snappers and (c), co-occurrence and sharing of habitat.

Onaga (E. coruscans), in foreground, and ehu (E. carbunculus) at a bait station

(courtesy of C. Kelley, Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory)


Dr Kelley and his DLNR Bottomfish Project staff assisted Dr Parrish and his team by providing fish samples and survey data. In addition, HCFRU team members participated in the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory 1998 and 1999 research submersible and remotely-operated vehicle cruises. No taape have been observed occurring with juvenile or adult onaga or ehu on any of the research fishing surveys by Dr Parrish's team.

During 130 hours or more of underwater observations from manned and remote submersible vehicles at depths between about 80 and 400 m, taape were seen on only two occasions, both at depths of less than 100 m, once two individuals were seen at night and a school was once seen in daylight.

4.3 Evaluation of non-lethal methods for assessment of overfished deepwater snapper resources

Robert Moffitt from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) led cruises aboard the University of Hawai'i research vessel R.V. Ka'imikai O Kanaloa in 1998, 1999 and 2002. The submersibles Pisces IV and V and the remotely operated vehicle RCV-150 were evaluated for observing and assessing bottomfish populations around the Main Hawaiian Islands. Dives were made in the RFAs and adjacent open areas on Penguin Bank, Moloka'i and off Makapu'u, Oahu. The University of Hawai'i's Hawai'i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) and the NOAA National Undersea Research Programme provided support for this research (see: <>).

Although the scientists still have hundreds of hours of videotape and notes to analyze, there are some observations that stand out. Submersible transect and bait station techniques show the most promise as assessment tools. Both ehu and onaga were observed with each of these techniques. Ehu were observed to be closely associated with benthic cover (holes or ledges) whereas onaga tended to swim higher in the water column. The ROV produced some high quality video transects at night, but snappers were rarely observed. It is possible that these snappers migrate diurnally as some of the shallower species do and were not present in the habitat at night when the ROV operations were conducted. It is also possible that the greater noise and brighter lights associated with the ROV (compared to the submersible) kept the snappers out of view.

One of the most interesting observations resulting from these dives is that researchers found a nursery ground utilized by both juvenile ehu and onaga. Both species were found associated with small, low carbonate (limestone) features scattered over an otherwise sandy bottom. Second, researchers were successful in feeding a dummy sonic tag to an ehu and were nearly successful in feeding one to an onaga. Lessons learned on these dives indicate that we should be able to introduce sonic tags to either species with a fair success rate.

Researchers also observed that juvenile onaga and ehu can occur in the same depths as adult onaga and ehu, unlike opakapaka where there is clear separation between juvenile and adult. What was also interesting is that onaga and ehu look quite different underwater than they do on the surface. Onaga appear silvery-gray in the distance because their scales are very reflective, but the red color becomes more evident as they get closer. Their tail fins have distinctive black tips. Ehu are red and yellow and have distinctive white spots on the pelvic and lower tail fins. With the sub lights off, ehu have dark stripes running longitudinally down their body. The gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus) show dark vertical bars. Large amberjacks (Seriola dumerili) were also observed in similar depths with onaga and ehu.


As noted earlier, the Division of Aquatic Resources has been collecting commercial fisheries data since 1948. These data are used extensively by all fishery management agencies in Hawaii as they facilitate long-term comparisons of landings and value. Commercial fishermen are required to obtain a Commercial Marine Licence and to submit reports of catch, landings and value to the Division on a monthly basis. However, specific fishing effort in terms of gear units and time fished were never collected. The system had undergone few changes in its 55 year history and not until late 2002 were new report forms implemented. The new reports require sufficient detail on fishing effort so that gear units, specific effort and bycatch can now be characterized. Nonetheless, relative effort and long-term trends can be derived from the historical data and have been used to monitor and assess commercial fisheries effectively.

Unfortunately, the same effort has not been put into collecting recreational or subsistence fishing catch and effort. Occasional creel survey projects have been executed, but with varying sampling designs and coverages previous to 2001. Since 2001, the Division has instituted a new recreational fishing creel survey project as a cooperative agreement with the federal National Marine Fisheries Service, which provides part of the funding. The new Hawai'i Marine Recreational Fishing Survey interviews private boat fishermen, charter boat captains and clients, and shoreline fishermen. Preliminary data are available for 2002 (see: < index.htm>).

The restricted fishing areas are the primary conservation measure in the DLNR's bottomfish management plan. The administrative rule requires the DLNR to evaluate the effectiveness of the RFAs and recommend additions or modifications. The Division of Aquatic Resources has developed a plan for evaluation and is leading the effort to collect and compile the data needed for the analysis. Commercial catch data are being analyzed for effects of the RFAs on onaga and ehu abundance.

The data from the fishery independent research submersible and bait station surveys are still being compiled. The task requires analysis of hundreds of hours of video and audio data and may be completed before the end of 2004. NMFS and Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory researchers are working with a DAR biologist to evaluate the data and provide information for a small working group of scientists, fishermen and enforcement that will provide management recommendations to the DLNR.


Problems with enforcement of the administrative rule and compliance by fishermen remain. The enforcement division of the DLNR is responsible for enforcing all department rules and state conservation laws on state lands and waters. These duties include drug enforcement and enforcing state park parking rules. As a result, they are not always able to deliver sufficient effort to the enforcement of the restricted fishing areas, which are inherently more difficult to enforce than other management measures such as a closed season. While many fishermen voluntary comply with the RFA regulations, some consistently violate them.

Fisheries independent research to complement life history data and support stock assessment are generally lacking. Although the DLNR has supported research into specific areas of bottomfish life history, specific research needed to support stock assessments and to assess or test the effectiveness of alternative management measures has not occurred. The Division of Aquatic Resources does not generally function as a research agency and must depend on collaborating agencies and researchers to supply scientific expertise. It has also been difficult to assess the effectiveness of protected areas for conserving or rebuilding bottomfish, unlike coral reef species, which are readily observable by SCUBA divers. Classic fishery dependent assessment measures are not likely to be effective for monitoring closed areas.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council recently sponsored a Bottomfish Stock Assessment Workshop in Honolulu to assess the available data and to recommend approaches to assess bottomfish stocks (January 2004). The report of the workshop is available at <>. Education and outreach efforts need to be continued to improve compliance and to help change perceptions of the need for conservation and the long term benefits of resource management.


The DLNR realizes that no fisheries management plan is perfect or is guaranteed to work as first conceived. It views the bottomfish management plan as an evolutionary plan that will change and be improved as we learn more about bottomfish and how best to conserve them at a sustainable level. The DLNR, as much as staffing and resources will allow, will support research and assessment studies of onaga, ehu and other bottomfish in the Main Hawaiian Islands to obtain more biological and fishery information on these fish. Improvements have been made to collection and analyses of fishery data. The Enforcement Division has been provided with portable GPS units and aircraft rental time to facilitate enforcement of regulations. Whether these ambitious programmes can be continued is highly dependent on the support the department gets from the community and from the state legislature.


The DLNR appreciates the assistance of many people in the MHI bottomfishery management process and research programmes. It would be infeasible to name everyone involved, but special appreciation goes to Michael Wilson, DLNR Chairperson and William Devick, DAR Administrator, and DAR staff; Robert Moffitt and Donald Kobayashi (NMFS), Christopher Kelley and the DLNR Bottomfish Project staff, Terry Kerby and HURL dive operations staff, Mark Mitsuyasu (WPRFMC), James Parrish, Eric Conklin, and Greta Aeby (HCFRU), William Aila (DLNR Boating and Ocean Recreation), DLNR Bottomfish Task Force members, numerous fishing and boat clubs, and the U.S. Coast Guard, NMFS Office of Law Enforcement, and DLNR Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement. Mahalo to Ms. Kitty Simonds, Executive Director (WPRFMC) and DLNR for support of the travel and arrangements for this workshop. Appreciation is extended to AndyBurnell (DAR) for useful comments on the draft.


Benoit-Bird, K., W. Au, C. Kelley & C. Taylor 2003. Measuring acoustic backscattering of deepwater fish in situ using a manned submersible. Deep Sea Research. vol. 50/2, 221–229.

Chow, M.M., V.N. Moriwake, K.S. Ching, C.D. Kelley, E.G. Grau, D. Su’a & M.J. Bagley 2000. Population genetic structure of the snapper, Etelis carbunculus, in the Pacific. Submitted for inclusion in the 11th Western Groundfish Conference. Sitka, Alaska. April,2000.

Haight, W.R., D.R. Kobayashi & K.E. Kawamoto 1993. Biology and management of deepwater snappers of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Mar. Fish. Rev. 55(2):20–27.

Kelley, C.D. 2002a. Investigation of bottomfish stocks, 1 July 2001–30 June 2002. Annual performance report to Department of Land and Natural Resources on project no. F-17-R-26. 11pp.

Kelley, C.D. 2002b. Report on 2001 Deepwater Research carried out in the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve. Submitted to the Ocean Resources Programme, Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission, State of Hawai‘i.

Kelley, C.D., B.C. Mundy & E.G. Grau. 1997. The use of the Pisces V submersible to locate nursery grounds of commercially important deepwater snappers , family Lutjanidae, in Hawaii. In: Programme and Abstracts, Marine Benthic Habitats Conference, Noumea, New Caledonia, November 10–16, 1997. 62pp.

Kelley, C.D., M. Field, J. Gardner & E.G. Grau 2000. Bottomfish research in Hawaii:using fishing surveys, multibeam sonar data, and the Pisces V submersible to identify and characterize HAPCs for deepwater snappers. Abstract. 11th Western Groundfish Conference, April, 2000. 33pp.

Parrish, J.D., G.S. Aeby, E.J. Conklin & G.L. Ivey 2000. Interactions of Nonindigenous Blueline Snapper (Taape) with Native Fishery Species. Hawaii Cooperative Fisheries Research Unit, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii. Report to the Division of Aquatic Resources, August 2000. 40pp + App.

WPRFMC 2003. Bottomfish and Seamount Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region-2001Annual Report. Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, April2003. 11pp + App. (available at <>).

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