Recreational and Non-Commercial Fishing in the Pacific Islands
NOAA Fisheries recognizes the fundamental role that non-commercial and recreational fishing plays in the livelihoods of Pacific Islanders. We work alongside fishermen, partners, and others to conserve fish populations and protect our unique fishing traditions.
Recreational fishing generates substantial social and economic benefits throughout the nation, and constitutes an important national pastime.
Recreational and non-commercial fishing in the Pacific Islands encompass fishing communities, habitats, and fishing practices spread over a vast area of nearly 1.5 million square miles of federal waters. The area is home to a highly productive coral reef, ocean bottom, and open ocean ecosystems, which surround all or part of three Pacific archipelagos—American Samoa, Hawai‘i, and the Mariana Islands—and seven widely spaced remote islands and atolls.
NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office is responsible for managing recreational fisheries in federal waters (generally 3 to 200 miles from shore) around the islands. We manage these fisheries in coordination with local, state, and territorial agencies, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, and other partners.
In the Pacific Islands, non-commercial fishing is described as fishing that does not meet the definition of commercial fishing in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. It includes sustenance, subsistence, traditional indigenous, and recreational fishing (50 CFR 665.12).
Non-commercial fisheries in the Pacific Islands are major economic contributors to coastal communities. They are socially and culturally significant, perpetuating subsistence and traditional fishing practices and their accompanying cultural values. Marine resources are regularly harvested for non-profit distribution within fishing communities (customary exchange), and portions of the catch often are sold to defray expenses, allowing fishing activities to continue.
In a recent survey of non-commercial fishermen in Hawai‘i, 66 percent indicated fishing for food was important, in particular catching fish for home consumption and for sharing with friends and family. Approximately 36 percent indicated that their catch is extremely or very important to their regular diet. Across the state, anglers spent more than $97 million on fishing trip expenditures, resulting in sales impacts (gross regional business sales) of more than $119 million, and supporting more than 900 jobs in 2015. About 89 percent of non-commercial fishing trips occurred in state waters and the remaining 11 percent in federal waters. Shore-based fishing provided the largest share of economic impact to the state, compared to the private boat and for-hire fishing modes. Shore fishing provided 48 percent of total trip expenditures, 45 percent of total sales impacts, and 49 percent of jobs supported by non-commercial fishing. In waters around Hawai’i, alone, experts estimate that more than two million pounds of fish are harvested non-commercially.
For a recent summary of non-commercial fishing activities throughout the Pacific Islands, see the Western Pacific Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Snapshot. There you will find highlights of the most commonly targeted species, annual catches, and more.
Permits and Licensing
National Saltwater Angler Registry: Federal law requires certain Hawai‘i fishermen (including spearfishermen) to register. Registration is not required if you only fish in freshwater, are under 16 years old, fish only on licensed charter boats, fish only in state waters, or are fishing under a valid commercial marine license.
Main Hawaiian Islands Non-commercial Bottomfish Permit: Required permit for non-commercial bottomfish fishing in federal waters in Hawai’i, unless you have a commercial marine license.
- State and Territorial Fishing Regulations: Permits and licenses are required for certain types of fishing within state and territorial waters.
The Pacific Islands Region has many well-established for-hire recreational fishing opportunities available through deep-sea charter boats, guided reef fishing, and eco-tourism. The majority of these services operate in the main Hawaiian Islands. American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam have smaller fishing charter industries to meet tourism demands.
The Pacific Islands host multiple fishing tournaments each year for different ages and skills. These tournaments are important to local communities and to fishermen who visit from around the world to participate.
Upcoming Saltwater Fishing Tournaments
May 20-24, 2020
Steinlager I'a Lapoa'a Game Fishing Tournament that includes the Women and Junior Fishing Tournament held on May 22.
March 7, 2020
Shut Up & Fish Guam Mahi and Wahoo Shootout Derby
November 20-21, 2020
Gilita Fishing Derby
San Jose Fiesta Fishing Derby
With help and input from fishermen; local, state, and territorial agencies, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, and other partners, we have identified a list of goals to address the needs of the various recreational fishing communities of the Pacific Islands. Some of these planned efforts include:
- Access and infrastructure
- Outreach and education
- Improved data collection
- Habitat restoration
In 2020, the Pacific Islands Regional Office funded a new grant for recreational and non-commercial fishing projects that promote sustainable fishing opportunities, maintain stability of fish stocks, and protect cultural fishing traditions. The 2020 awards, totaling $117,250, will support the following projects:
- Understanding the Impacts of Ciguatera Poisoning on Hawai‘i’s Fishing Communities
Dr. Eileen Nalley, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology
Assessing the prevalence, consequences and risk mitigation decisions associated with Ciguatera fish poisoning in Hawai‘i.
- International Game Fish Association Great Marlin Race
International Game Fish Association
Engaging recreational anglers through a citizen science-driven billfish satellite tagging program.
- Support Community Use of the Electronic Reporting Application to Improve Fishery Data in the Pacific Islands Region
Pacific Islands Fisheries Group
Promoting use of the Catchit Logit fishery data collection mobile app in the Pacific Islands.
- Seasonal Spawning in Caranx ignobilis and Caranx melampygus for the Islands of O‘ahu and Maui
Poseidon Fisheries Research LLC
Combining traditional fishing knowledge with modern reproduction assessments to support collaborative fishery management of ulua (C. ignobilis) and ‘ōmilu (C. melampygus).
Meetings and Outreach
Talk Stories - These meetings provide a time and place for anyone interested in non-commercial fishing to share information and ideas with the NOAA Fisheries Recreational Fisheries Coordinator. The emphasis is on non-commercial fishing issues but any topic of relevance to our local shoreline and boat-based fisheries is important.
SAFE Meetings - SAFE (Scientist and Fishermen Exchange) meetings provide a comfortable and safe environment for genuine exchange of information. Representatives from multiple stakeholders come together to discuss topics and this improves collaboration and communication, encourages understanding, builds positive relationships, and fosters trust and respect among fishermen, scientists, and managers.
Please see our calendar of upcoming opportunities to meet with NOAA Fisheries staff to discuss recreational and non-commercial fishing topics.