Sustainable Fisheries Division

Recreational Fisheries

What is Recreational Fishing?
Due to the elaborate social, cultural and economic aspects of fishing in the islands, Pacific Islands Regional Office is looking into expanding the definition of recreational fishing from fishing for sport or pleasure. In particular, the following categories of fishermen may better meet the spirit of a recreational definition rather than a commercial one:
  1. Those who fish for sport or pleasure primarily, but who sell a limited number of fish to assist with trip expenses.

  2. Those who practice the customary exchange of fish.

  3. Those charter fishermen who only sell small amounts of fish.

The Importance of Recreational Fishing

In terms of both catch and economic contribution, recreational fishing is an important part of managing living marine resources. Recreational fishermen account for nearly a quarter of all landings of targeted species nationally.

In the Pacific Islands, the pelagic catch attributable to recreational fishermen is as high as 40%. In Hawaii alone, the broad economic impact of recreational fishing was estimated to be over 750 million dollars in 2006. However, this estimate only included fishermen that did not sell fish or conduct charter fishing, therefore the economic impact of recreational fishing in Hawaii is even greater.

The importance of recreational fishing to marine fisheries management has not gone unnoticed and NOAA has begun a new initiative to raise the profile of recreational fishing within the agency. Recreational fisheries management is also being conducted in the islands in part through a long term Congressional appropriation. Each year, funds are made available by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Hawaii and each of the Pacific U.S. territories (American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam) under the Sports Fish Restoration Program. This funding is collected through a federal tax on the sale of fishing and boating equipment, and off-highway fuel tax.

The Future of Recreational Fishing

The economic, social, and ecological impacts of recreational (non-commercial) fishing in the Pacific Islands are an important part of ongoing fishery conservation and management efforts. As more U.S. fisheries move towards sectors and catch shares, it is necessary for recreational fishing participants to be organized, active, and represented in fishery management decision-making.

In the meantime, NOAA Fisheries Service is moving forward to increase its collaboration with recreational fishermen by listening and responding to them, developing action agenda that includes coordination in marine spatial planning. Most significantly, NOAA intends to support and engage in improved data collection programs to help determine the levels of participation in and the amount of fish being caught by recreational fishermen.