Report: Pacific Marine National Monuments Don't Harm Fishing Industry

Published Feb 22, 2020 10:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

New findings released in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications indicate that expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands and Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monuments did not cause overall economic harm to the Hawaii-based longline tuna fishing fleet.

The results of the study, which was supported by the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, represent the first economic analysis of two of the largest protected areas on Earth. The monuments protect an area larger than the land mass of Alaska, Texas and California combined. 

In 2014 and 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama significantly expanded the monuments, collectively protecting a little more than one million square miles (2.78 million square kilometers) of marine habitat. This built upon actions taken by President George W. Bush—who designated both the Pacific Remote Islands and Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monuments in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

The effect of a marine protected area on a fishery is often difficult to assess because of the many factors that affect catch such as ocean conditions, prices, and changing regulations. A strength of this study is that by comparing the longline tuna fishery to two other fisheries unaffected by the monument designation the researchers have controlled for factors that could be biasing the results. 

Prior to the expansion of the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument, representatives of the longline fishing industry in Hawaii argued that the expansion would result in direct losses as high as $10 million annually, and that total indirect losses to the fishing-dependent economy could reach $30 million. The new analysis shows that after the expansions, the Hawaii-based longline industry has been catching more fish, while the distance fleet the travels has remained unchanged. Moreover, the total catch and total revenue in the fishery have increased since the expansions began. Specifically, the average revenue from 2014 to 2017 was 13.7 percent higher than from 2010 to 2013.

The study co-authors, led by John Lynham, professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Hawaii at M?noa, analyzed observer records of individual fishing events, logbook summary reports and detailed satellite data on vessel movements.

“By analyzing independently collected data, we found that catch per unit effort has increased overall for the Hawaii-based longline industry following each expansion,” says Lynham. “The bottom line is that these monuments are not causing substantial economic losses to the fishery.”

Matthew Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy project, says: “We now know that one of the largest fully protected areas in the world not only safeguards the long-term viability of this ecosystem’s rich biodiversity and builds resilience to climate change, but it also supports fishers as they continue to prosper. This study demonstrates how marine protection works alongside fisheries management to help safeguard the ocean and its resources.”

Dona Bertarelli, co-chair of the Bertarelli Foundation, says: “Research like this can help provide momentum in the push to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.”