Stay connected with us
around the nation »

Hawaii Bottomfish Handline

Current Classification on 2017 LOF

Category III
Estimated Number of Participants 578
Target Species Deep 7 bottomfish and other non-Deep 7 bottomfish species
Applicable Take Reduction Plans None
Observer Coverage Not currently observed. The fishery was previously observed from October 2003-December 2005 at 18.3-33.3% coverage.
Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured None documented in recent years

^ Number of participants estimates are based on state and federal fisheries permit data.  The estimated number of participants is expressed in terms of the number of active participants in the fishery, when possible.  If this information is not available, the estimated number of vessels or persons licensed for a particular fishery is provided.  If no recent information is available on the number of participants, then the number from the most recent LOF is used.  NMFS acknowledges that, in some cases, these estimations may be inflating actual effort.  

*Observer coverage levels include the latest information reported in the most current final Stock Assessment Report (SAR)

1 Indicates the stock or species is driving the classification of the fishery 

Note: Current classification based on final LOF, no proposed changes are reflected in this table.

Basis for Current Classification

Marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins and Hawaiian monk seals, have been reported as depredating bait or catch from bottomfish handlines (Shallenberger 1981, Nitta and Henderson 1993). Depredation behavior may increase the risk of marine mammals becoming hooked or entangled. Stranding records and other information suggest several marine mammal species may be killed or injured in unidentified hook-and-line fisheries (e.g., Bradford and Lyman 2015, NMFS PIR Marine Mammal Response Network, Baird et al. 2014). However, at this time, no mortality or serious injury of marine mammals has been reported or documented in the fishery. The fishery was observed at 18.3-33.3% coverage from October 2003-December 2005 with no marine mammal interactions.


Fishing can occur in both state and federal waters. Trips last 1-3 days. Fishing generally occurs in depths from 300 to 1200 ft. Fishing occurs year-round, but effort is concentrated in the late fall and winter and peaks during periods of low wind and sea conditions. 

During the 2012-2013 MHI Deep 7 bottomfish fishing year, 457 fishermen reported 2,980 deep-set handline fishing trips resulting in 238,705 lb of Deep 7 bottomfish (Bottomfish News Volume 16, November 2013). As reported to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), in 2013, 496 licensees used deep-sea handline gear on 3,824 trips, including trips for non-Deep 7 bottomfish species. 

Gear Description

Fishing from a vessel using a vertical mainline with single or multiple baited hooks on short leaders and a terminal weight, used on or near the bottom. The line is retrieved manually, or by any other powered method. Chum bags are often used to attract the fish.


Hawaii’s commercial and non-commercial bottomfish fisheries harvest a complex of 14 species that include nine snappers, four jacks, and a single species of grouper, although the target species. The species of primary management concern are six deep-water snappers and the grouper, commonly referred to as the “Deep 7 bottomfish.” These include onaga (Etelis coruscans), ehu (E. carbunculus), gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus), kalekale (P. sieboldii), opakapaka (P. filamentosus), lehi (Aphareus rutilans), and hapuupuu (Epinephelus quernus).  Generally, Deep 7 bottomfish are found along high-relief, deep slopes, ranging from 80-400 meters, while the remaining non-Deep 7 bottomfish management unit species including the jacks (Caranx ignobilis, Caranx lugubris, Seriola dumerili, Pseudocaranx cheilio), the gray jobfish (Aprion virescens), and the other lutjanid snappers (Lutjanus kasmira and Pristipomoides auricilla) can be found at shallower depths.

The federal fisheries management regime under the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Hawaiian Archipelago (Hawaii FEP) and implementing regulations under 50 CFR 665.200 through 665.219 includes three fishing zones: the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) Zone, and two zones in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the Mau Zone and the Hoomalu Zone. All bottomfish fishing currently takes place in the MHI zone due to the closure of the NWHI commercial bottomfish fishery under Presidential Proclamation 8031. The MHI bottomfish fishery is managed collaboratively by the Hawaii DAR, NMFS, and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council. This fishery corresponds to the following fishing method(s) defined by DAR: deep-sea handline.

The State of Hawaii prohibits the sale of opakapaka, onaga and uku less than one pound and jacks less than 16 in fork length. In June of 1998, DAR established spatial management rules for the Deep 7 bottomfish by closing 19 areas to bottomfishing. DAR modified and relocated the areas in 2006 and now there are 12. The State does not have a specific bottomfish permit, but does require that vessels engaging in bottomfishing be registered with DAR, and requires fishermen who sell bottomfish to obtain a commercial marine license and report all catch within five days of fishing.

Federal regulations requires that all non-commercial bottomfish vessel owners and fishermen fishing in federal waters of the MHI possess a valid federal MHI non-commercial bottomfish permit and report catch within three days of fishing. Non-commercial fishermen are subject to a daily bag limit of five fish Deep 7 bottomfish.

The Council recommends and NMFS approves an annual catch limit (ACL) for the Deep 7 bottomfish and a fishing season that starts on September 1 of each year. The catch limit is reviewed annually and is published in the Federal Register. The State of Hawaii regulates the fishery with a complementary rule. The catch limit applies to both commercial and non-commercial sectors of the fishery. To ensure the catch limit is not exceeded, NMFS and DAR monitor the catch of Deep 7 bottomfish during the annual fishing season. If the catch limit is reached, all bottomfishing is closed in the MHI until the start of the next season. There is no prohibition on fishing for other bottomfish species during a closure for Deep 7 bottomfish.  

ACLs have also been specified for non-deep 7 bottomfish, as well as most other management unit species under the Council’s FEPs, but the Deep 7 bottomfish is the only sector for which the State of Hawaii has a complementary rule to close the fishery if the ACL is reached. For most of these other species, the fishing year starts January 1. 


Historical Information

Original Category (Year added to the LOF) III (1996)
Original Number of Participants 434
Basis for Original Classification Listed as Category III because the fishery was expected to have a remote likelihood of incidental serious injury or mortality of marine mammals. No observer, logbook, or stranding data were available.
Past Names “HI deep sea bottomfish” (until 2006), “HI Main Hawaiian Islands and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands deep sea bottomfish” (until 2011), and “HI MHI deep-sea bottomfish handline” (until 2015).
Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list) N/A


Timeline of Changes

  • Renamed from “HI MHI deep-sea bottomfish handline” to “HI bottomfish handline.”
    Removed Hawaiian monk seal from the list of species injured or killed in the fishery.
    Estimated number of participants increased from 567 to 578.
  • Estimated number of participants decreased from 569 to 567.
  • Estimated number of participants decreased from 580 to 569.
  • Renamed “HI Main Hawaiian Islands deep-sea bottomfish handline.”  The fishery in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands was closed at the end of 2009 and the addition of “handline” to the name clarifies the gear type used in the fishery.
  • Estimated number of participants increased from 300 to 580.
  • Estimated number of participants decreased from 387 to 300.
  • Renamed from “HI deep sea bottomfish” to “HI Main Hawaiian Islands and Northwest Hawaiian Islands deep sea bottomfish”.
  • Estimated number of participants decreased from 434 to 387.

Baird, R.W., S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, T. Cullins, D.J. McSweeney, E.M. Oleson, A.L. Bradford, J. Barlow, and A.N. Zerbini. 2014. Evidence of high levels of fisheries interactions for false killer whales around the main Hawaiian Islands: Variations by social groups and correlation with increased mortality levels. PSRG-2014-15. 10 p.

Bradford, A.L. and E. Lyman. 2015.  Injury determinations for humpback whales and other cetaceans reported to NOAA Response Networks in the Hawaiian Islands during 2007-2012. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-45. 29 p.

Nitta, E.T. and J.R. Henderson. 1993. A review of interactions between Hawaii’s fisheries and protected species. Marine Fisheries Review 55(2): 83-92.

Shallenberger, E.W. 1981. The status of Hawaiian cetaceans. Final Report to U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, MMC-77/23. 79 p.

Updated January 14, 2017