A very early morning trip to a fishmarket exposed us to different and sometimes conflicting perspectives on sustainable fishing.
Usually our giant gray 15-passenger van is loud with at least three different conversations going on in it at one time. The folks in the back, the middle and up front are all a bit too far apart for any one conversation to last very long and it tends to dissolve into a raucous atmosphere. But today Andy Read discovered how to subdue all nine of us: 5 a.m. wake-up call.
We are a punctual bunch, and we all gathered in the lobby at “o’dark thirty.” But not very conversational! However, the reason for our early meeting time was for a very good cause. We were headed down to the local fish auction. By the time we arrived at six o’clock the docks were already bustling with activity. Giant flats of fresh fish were being dragged into the warehouse, ice was being shoveled into bins, and the local fish buyers were walking around the fresh catch with the auctioneer bidding on the days catch. The fish that is caught here is mostly done by longline, miles of fishing line with hooks at regular intervals. The target species right now is swordfish and bigeye tuna. However, almost everything that is caught has a value and is brought back to be sold. What looks like chaos is actually a well organized system where the fish are loaded off the boats in the order they returned to dock. The fish are laid out with cuts in the tail and core samples of the torso laying on top so that buyers can evaluate the quality of each fish. They are bid on and sold and then carted off to be resold in the market that day. We met Brooks Takenaka with United Fishing Agency Limited. He explained that more than half of what is caught is consumed locally here in Hawaii, the rest is shipped to the mainland, and less than 5 percent is sent to Japan. As he explained, the market pretty much comes to Hawaii because of the high amount of Japanese tourism there.
Next we met Sean Martin of Pacific Ocean Producers who owns five local commercial fishing vessels. He took time to bring us around to some of the boats and to answer questions about the fishing fleet, the methods used to catch each species, and how they have taken measures to incorporate the necessary monitoring of their fishing efforts. On a tour of one of his own boats, he showed us the circle hooks that are designed to minimize the chances of hooking a sea turtle and the vessel monitoring system (VMS) box that allows each boat’s location to be tracked remotely for avoidance of restricted areas. Our tour was over before 9 a.m., and we had already learned a ton of information!! We recovered with breakfast and coffee (finally!) before heading back to our motel for much needed naps. We want to thank everyone at the market, especially Sean and Brooks for their time and patience this morning, it was an invaluable experience.
After lunch, we returned to the offices of NOAA where we spoke with Chris Yates, the assistant regional administrator of protected resources. He made a presentation on the local whale and dolphin populations and gave updates on the current management issues concerning them in the Hawaiian Islands and Pacific regions. The two issues we focused on were the growing popularity of swim-with-dolphin programs and the dangers of ship strikes by the new high speed inter-island ferry and other commercial and recreational vessels. The presentations sparked interesting discussions of the different viewpoints involved and the complicated nature of balancing marine mammal protection with use of oceans by humans ocean. We are grateful to the folks at NOAA who took time to talk to us about these complicated issues.
This evening we had a delicious home-cooked meal compliments of fellow Nicholas School student Elia Herman and her parents, Lou and Hannah, here on Oahu. It was the perfect end to our whirlwind time here on Oahu. We have a long day of travel tomorrow but are excited to finally get up to Midway and the adventures that await us there. Aloha y’all!