Seven popular species of bottom fish are thriving in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands.
That’s according a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looking at the abundance of deep fish stocks.
NOAA officials enlisted the help of local fishermen with the Pacific Islands Fisheries Group and the state to conduct the three-year study.
The assessment looked at fish species that are in the "Deep 7" group. They include: opakapaka (pink snapper), ehu (squirrelfish snapper), onaga (longtail snapper), kalekale (Von Siebold’s snapper), gindai (Brigham’s snapper), lehi (silverjaw snapper), and hapuʻupuʻu (Seale’s grouper). The management of all these fish is jointly managed by state and federal authorities.
These fish species are not only an important component of the local economy, but are popular in seafood restaurants and on dinner tables across the state. Today, bottomfish account for more than 50 percent of the total domestic commercial catch and are valued in the millions of dollars.
Scientists conducted the assessment by using underwater camera systems to capture video footage of the bottomfish in their deep-water habitats. Researchers also used catch data from local fishermen and held a series of workshops with local fishers.
Brian Langseth is a Fishery Scientist for NOAA.
Langseth says there's a positive outlook for all seven bottomfish stocks - including opakapaka, which makes up two-thirds of the total catch and stock.
NOAA officials will be presenting the results to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council – which will use the information to decide the management of the fishery in the future.