Hawaii Longline Fishery Achieves Global Sustainability Certification

HONOLULU, HI – The Hawaii Longline Association’s (HLA) swordfish (Xiphias gladius), bigeye (Thunnus obesus), and yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) fishery has achieved certification for sustainable fishing practices, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) announced today. The fishery is the first Hawaii fishery to enter the MSC program.

The MSC Fisheries Standard is a globally recognized standard used to assess if a fishery is well-managed, and reflects the most up-to-date understanding of internationally accepted fisheries science and management.

The certification follows a rigorous 16-month review carried out by third-party assessment body Control Union UK Limited. The MSC Fisheries Standard has three core principles that every certified fishery must meet including: 1) sustainable fish stocks, 2) minimizing environmental impact, and 3) effective fisheries management. As well as preserving fish stocks and the marine environment, the MSC certification process ensures that products can be traced to a MSC certified fishery through required recordkeeping.

This assessment covers two separate components of the longline fishery carried out by members of the HLA: the Hawaii shallow-set swordfish longline fishery and the Hawaii deep-set tuna longline fishery. The fleet is comprised of 142 locally owned vessels. The shallow-set fishery targets swordfish at night, whereas the deep-set fishery targets bigeye tuna during the day. Shallow-set trips are subject to 100% observer coverage, while a coverage of at least 20% is aimed at for deep-set trips.

The Hawaii longline fishery dates to 1917, when it was established by Japanese immigrant fishermen. Today, it is the largest food producing industry in Hawaii, with unique cultural, nutritional, and economic importance in a state whose residents consume twice as much seafood per capita as the rest of the country. The fishery is low volume and high value ­— with landings worth approximately $125 million annually — making Honolulu one of the nation’s most valuable commercial fishing ports year after year. 80 percent of landings are consumed locally in Hawaii, and nearly 100 percent stay within the U.S. Overall, the fishery produces 95 percent of the nation’s bigeye tuna landings, and 50 to 60 percent of swordfish and yellowfin tuna landings.

MSC certification is just the latest example of the Hawaii Longline Association’s commitment to best management practices. Last year the fleet voluntarily switched from using wire leaders on their gear to monofilament leaders to promote shark conservation. Approximately 85% of the fleet’s fishing effort occurs on the high seas adjacent to the Hawaii archipelago with the remainder of fishing effort in US exclusive economic zone (EEZ) waters. The fishery is subject to a comprehensive suite of federal regulations and monitoring requirements promulgated by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The fishery is a recognized global leader in the development and implementation of effective bycatch mitigation practices for sharks, seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles. The fishery also pioneered the use of satellite-based vessel monitoring systems in the late 1980s to spatially track fishing locations in near real time. High levels of independent observer coverage have been instituted in the fleet since the early 1990s.

Eric Kingma, Executive Director of HLA stated: “HLA is proud to receive the certification as it is recognition of the fleet’s stringent management and monitoring regime. We believe our fleet produces the best quality and highest level of monitored tuna in the world. We look forward to working with MSC, WPRFMC, NMFS and others on the continued and long-term production of sustainably and responsibly harvested fish landed by our fleet.”

An important component of the fishery is the Honolulu Fish Auction, which is the only daily tuna auction in the United States. Celebrating its 70th year in business in 2022, the auction plays a key role in promoting the best quality and highest market value of fish landed by the Hawaii longline fleet.

Mike Goto, manager of the Honolulu Fish Auction, said: “All of the Hawaii-based longline fleet offloads at one location in Honolulu Harbor and the auction is the central hub for the supply of fish throughout Hawaii. Several companies that buy fish through the auction system will be competing for MSC certified fish and they will distribute that fresh, premium fish to Hawaii and US mainland consumers.”

John Kaneko, Hawaii Seafood Council program manager, said: “MSC certification provides market validation of the sustainability of Hawaii bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna and swordfish. Sustainability is the result of strict US fishery management under the WPRFMC and NMFS process.  Hawaii’s longline fishery is now over 100 years old and counting.  Now that’s what I call sustainable.” He added that, “Local seafood is vital to Hawaii’s diverse ethnic communities.  It is essential to island culture, traditions, quality of life and Hawaii’s growing reputation as a food tourism destination.”

Nicole Condon, US Program Director for the MSC, said: “Congratulations to the Hawaii Longline Association on achieving this milestone. The fishery has demonstrated that they’ve put in the hard work to ensure fishing is done in an environmentally sustainable manner, supporting both future generations and our oceans. As someone who lived in Oahu for several years, I’m thrilled to personally welcome the first fishery from Hawaii into the program.”


About the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organization which sets globally recognized standards for sustainable fishing and the seafood supply chain. The MSC ecolabel and certification program recognizes and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. The MSC ecolabel on a seafood product means it comes from a wild-catch fishery which has been independently certified to the MSC’s science-based standard for sustainable fishing. Fisheries representing more than 19% of the world’s wild marine catch are engaged in its certification program, and more than 20,000 different MSC labeled products are available on shelves across the globe (figures correct as of 31 March 2021). For more information, visit msc.org or follow @MSCBlueFish on social media.

About the Hawaii Longline Association (HLA)

The Hawaii Longline Association (HLA) was established in 2000 to advance the interests of the fishermen and related industries involved in the Hawaii longline fishery. HLA supports science-based conservation and management measures and advocates on the behalf of its members within both domestic and international management settings. HLA also coordinates cooperative research activities within the Hawaii longline fleet. HLA is governed by a Board of Directors. Eric Kingma, PhD, serves as HLA Executive Director. For more information including viewing our “Hooked” video series, please visit www.hawaiilongline.org.