Hawaii longline tuna fishery temporal trends in standardized catch rates and length distributions and effects on pelagic and seamount ecosystems


E. Gilman, Hawaii Pacific University & Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, 3661 Loulu Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 USA. E-mail: EricLGilman@gmail.com


  1. Declines in absolute abundance and altered size distributions from size-selective removals of market species of pelagic apex predators in tuna fisheries alters evolutionary characteristics of populations and ecosystem processes and stability. Pelagic fishing at seamounts, where hyperstability of pelagic predators may occur, can exacerbate declining abundance and have high bycatch of species groups that are highly vulnerable to overexploitation.
  2. Generalized additive mixed Poisson regression models (GAMMs) were fitted to Hawaii longline tuna fishery observer data to determine temporal trends in standardized catch rates, an index for local, relative abundance. Temporal trends in expectile length distributions were determined through geoadditive expectile GAMMs.
  3. Significant declining trends in relative abundance in this fishery were observed for tunas, sharks and billfish. A decline in seabird standardized catch rate occurred concurrently with the uptake of seabird bycatch mitigation technology. Changed spatial distribution of fishing effort and increased use of wider circle hooks likely contributed to a declining sea turtle standardized catch rate.
  4. Tuna and billfish mean lengths significantly increased over the time series due to entire distributions of length classes having shifted towards larger fish. Larger tunas comprised a larger proportion of the catch due to fewer small tunas being caught, and to a lesser extent because mean lengths of larger size classes increased. Conversely, billfish largest length classes experienced the largest increases in average lengths. Changes in spatial and seasonal distributions of fishing effort, increased use of wider circle hooks, and possibly increasing purse seine selective removals of juvenile tunas, may have contributed to increased selectivity for larger fish.
  5. Significant differences in standardized catch rates and length distributions at a shallow seamount vs. the open ocean confirms the aggregating effect of seamounts on pelagic predators, including juvenile market species of pelagic fish and species groups relatively vulnerable to overexploitation.
  6. Wider circle hooks significantly improved valuable tuna standardized catch rates, but also increased unwanted shark and reduced valuable billfish standardized catch rates.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.