NOAA's Reef Fish Stock Assessment for the Main
Hawaiian Islands

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HONOLULU, March 6, 2017 – How are coral reef fish doing in the main Hawaiian Islands? For the first time, NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) presents assessments of 27 different Hawaiian reef fish including kala (bluespine unicornfish), uhu (parrotfishes), kumu (whitesaddle goatfish), ulua (giant trevally), and many more.

Reef fish are popular with local fishermen, hold cultural significance, and boost the economy through tourism. Despite their importance to fisheries in Hawai'i, there is a lack of information on how most species of reef fish are doing. To answer this question for fishery managers, PIFSC collected and analyzed information on fish abundance, sizes, and biology from diver surveys, life history studies, and commercial and recreational catch estimates.

Results show that overfishing is likely occurring for 11 out of 27 reef fish species. The 11 species include ulua, five surgeonfishes, two goatfishes, and three parrotfishes. Typically, species that live the longest or are highly targeted by fishermen tended to be in poorer condition. An example of this, kala can live up to 50 years and are a popular target. This contrasts with species such as weke nono that only live up to 6 years and are shown to be doing fine. Surgeonfishes and parrotfishes were the families with the most vulnerable species, while goatfish populations were generally in better condition.

"Our goal is to provide science-based information to better inform fisheries management for coral reef fish now and into the future," Mike Seki, Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. These results will be presented to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee on March 7, 2017.

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