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Hawaii pelagic handline

Current Classification on the 2017 LOF:

Category III
Estimated Number of Participants 534
Target Species Yellowfin, bigeye, and albacore tuna, some billfishes
Applicable Take Reduction Plans None
Observer Coverage Not observed
Marine Mammal Species/Stocks Killed or Injured None documented

^ 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:  Bottlenose dolphins and rough-toothed dolphins have been reported as depredating bait or catch from 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 serious injuries or mortalities to any marine mammal have been attributed to the commercial pelagic handline fishery. Based on an evaluation of information available at this time, there is a remote likelihood of marine mammal serious injuries or mortalities in this fishery.

Distribution:  Fishing occurs around drop-offs and deep ledges around the main Hawaiian Islands, offshore fish aggregating devices, oceanic moorings (e.g., weather buoys), and mid-ocean seamounts and pinnacles in both federal and state waters. In 2013, there were 4,926 trips reported as using tuna handline methods, including 135 hybrid, 1,771 ika-shibi, and 3,020 palu-ahi. Some trips involved using one or more handline methods. 

Gear Description: Several types of handline methods can be used. Some trips involve more than one handline method.

Palu-ahi (aka make dog or drop stone) tuna handline fishing usually takes place during the day. The gear usually consists of a high-test mainline of braided or monofilament Dacron or nylon connected to a high-test monofilament nylon leader with a single baited hook. A flat lead weight may be attached the mainline at the junction with the leader. Instead of using a lead weight, the fisherman may use the traditional flat stone for the weight, in which case the stone is not attached to the line. Pieces of chopped bait (palu) are laid on the weight, the leader with the baited hook is coiled and laid on top, and the mainline is wrapped around the package and tied off with a slip knot. The package is then lowered to the desired depth, where a tug on the line releases the slipknot, dispersing the chum and releasing the baited hook. The stone falls to the bottom, leaving the line free to be worked by the fisherman. A chum bag made of a square piece of cloth attached by corner to the lead weight or mainline with a swivel is often used to wrap around the bait and weight to help keep the package intact until it is released at the desired depth.

Ika-shibi tuna handline fishing occurs mainly at night also using a vertical mainline with high-test monofilament leader, from which is suspended a single baited hook. A weight may be used between the mainline and leader, with four or more lines usually attached to the vessel by breakaway links. A sea anchor is used to control and slow the drift of the vessel. A small light is usually suspended below the boat to attract muhe’e (“true squid”) or opelu, typically used to attract the tuna schools or caught for use as bait. Line may be hauled manually, mechanically or by any powered method.

Hybrid tuna handline fishing is a unique mixture of fishing methods used to catch pelagic species primarily on offshore seamounts and near NOAA weather buoys. It is generally a combination of methods including handlining, trolling, aku-boat style live bait and pole-and-line, and danglers used simultaneously. Danglers are short, high-test ropes and leaders with lures suspended at the water surface from short, rigid outriggers close to the slowly moving vessel. When a fish takes the hook, the fisherman pulls the leader and the fish into the boat.

Management: The fishery is monitored and managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources/Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), NMFS, and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, as appropriate. In general, fisheries are managed for the species harvested rather than by gear, but in some cases there are specific management measures for particular gear types or methods.

In federal waters, harvest of Western Pacific pelagic management unit species is managed in accordance with the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for Pacific Pelagic Fisheries of the Western Pacific Region and implementing regulations under 50 CFR 665.798 through 665.819.  
A commercial marine license issued by DAR is required for all commercial fishing activities. This fishery corresponds to the following fishing method(s) defined by DAR: ika-shibi, palu-ahi, and hybrid.


Historical Information

Original Category (Year added to the LOF) III (1996)
Original Number of Participants 144
Basis for Original Classification Listed as Category III based on commercial fishery permit.  No observer, logbook, or stranding data are available.
Past Names “HI tuna” (until 2006), “HI tuna handline” (until 2015).
Species/stocks historically documented as killed or injured (but not currently on the list) N/A


Timeline of Changes

  • Estimated number of participants increased from 484 to 534
  • Renamed from “HI tuna handline” to “HI pelagic handline.”
  • Estimated number of participants increased from 459 to 484.
  • Estimated number of participants increased from 445 to 459.
  • Estimated number of participants decreased from 531 to 445.
  • Estimated number of participants increased from 298 to 531
  • Hawaiian monk seal deleted from list of species/stocks injured or killed in the fishery because NMFS has never received a report of monk seal interactions in the fishery.
  • Rough-toothed dolphin (HI) and bottlenose dolphin (HI) deleted from list of species/stocks injured or killed in the fishery, since there were no interactions documented in the most recent five years of data.
  • Estimated number of participants increased from 144 to 298.

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 June 19, 2017