Pono Fishing Standards

Pono Fishing Standards

We all depend on the health of our oceans it produces 70% of our oxygen. Here in Hawaiʻi the ocean is a vital part of life including a source of food. Our top priority is to offer the highest quality of freshest seafood to consumers while doing our part to protect Hawai‘i’s marine resources. The seafood we provide represents the most sustainable options we can offer at this time and is traceable from boat to plate.

Our fishing standards incorporate indigenous Hawaiian fishing practices and social principles for ethically sourced food with principles of both the Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The integration of globally recognized industry standards for environmentally sustainable seafood with traditional and observational knowledge facilitates fishing practices that foster productivity and sustainability.

The core elements of Pono Fishing Standards our fishers uphold include:

  • All seafood is sourced from healthy stocks, and our fishermen fish in ways that allow populations to replenish themselves.
  • Our fishermen take care of the resource, and minimize the impact of their fishing activities on the environment.
  • Our fishermen adhere to state and federal fishing regulations and are active participants in improving management systems
  • Our fishermen uphold standards for ethical sourcing, including fair and equitable employment, transparency of point-of-origin, and adherence to cultural practices and knowledge.

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For centuries, Hawaiians sustained an abundant fish supply however, in the past decade Hawai’i’s fisheries and the world’s fishing stocks have collapsed. However, the wisdom of the natives of Hawai’i can help protect and restore marine resources. It is important to understand and articulate what it means to be a Pono fishermen/fisherwoman.  In old Hawaii, the people have learned to interact with their environment by observing the life cycles of fish and plants, and knowing when the appropriate time was to harvest.  They understood the cycles of fish and placed kapuʻs as to not disturb those cycles, including the spawning of reef fishes.  This practice of observing, understanding, and harvesting is the foundation of the Hawaiian fisher methodology.  This enabled the Hawaiian people to fish, eat, and live sustainably. Today, it is a lot more difficult to replicate those fishing practices.  But it is possible to take the same principles of that practice and adapt them to how people fish today.

Many of the methods they used are similar to strategies employed in fisheries management today, including protected areas, community-based management, regulation of gear and effort, aquaculture, and restrictions on vulnerable species. Differences between management then and now, are that in native Hawaiian society rules were strictly enforced and aquaculture was used by the native Hawaiians as food security during tough times. As such, Hawaiians stocked fishponds with small, algae-eating species, requiring little outside effort to support them. Modern aquaculture, in contrast, relies heavily on feeding wild-caught species to farmed ones.

Our fishers agree to uphold the following Pono Fishing Standards for all harvesting practices while supplying Local Iʻa. Our fishers also agree to work with Local Iʻa to provide their own information on how their fishing methods are integrated with the Pono Fishing Standards. Our fishers agree to supply Local Iʻa with seafood caught according to these practices.

Detailed version of our Pono Fishing Standards that drives sourcing our seafood

  1. Take care of the resource.
    1. Fishing operations should eliminate or minimize by-catch (fisheries-related mortality or injury other than the targeted catch), including by-catch of endangered, threatened, and protected species and undersized fish.
    2. Fishing method must allow for any undersized or unwanted catch to be released alive and unharmed. Although many invasive species such as Taape are marketed, kept and sold- with the exception of Roi.
    3. Fishing gear and practices should have zero or minimal impact on the seafloor and other habitats. This ensures there is a healthy environment with limu and coral for fish to graze on.
    4. Fishing operations should refrain from pollution, and should employ environmental best practices. Always leave a fishing area cleaner than when you got there.
    5. Must employ best fish handling practices, including proper icing techniques and clean, disinfected fish holds, to ensure that the best quality of catch and the resource is fully utilized.
    6. Fishers are to be actively engaged in stewarding the resource- invest time and/or resources in community and environment to give back. Examples include invasive species eradication, removal of fishing line and lead from the reef, and malama aina work.
  1. Follow all laws under the State of Hawaii and the United States
    1. All fishermen must abide by current State and Federal fishing rules and regulations, including holding a Commercial Fishing License and accurately reporting entire catch to DAR.
    2. All seafood products should be traceable to their sources with catch data provided to Local Iʻa as requested. Fishers must be open to provide information regarding your catch, including general origin of harvest, catch method, etc.
    3. All seafood sold to Local Iʻa must be under 32o F, in accordance to State Department of Health and handled under safe and sanitary food handling protocol.
  1. Support human welfare, fair trade, and equitable livelihoods
    1. Fishing operations uphold public rights and indigenous customs, as well as observe human rights laws, such as child labor, anti-slavery, and fair labor laws.
    2. Fisheries support healthy, vibrant coastal communities with meaningful sources of employment.
    3. Fishing operations should be part of a supply chain that operates with a fair and equitable distribution of wealth throughout the supply chain.
  1. Fishers agree to collaborate with Local Iʻa staff and attempt to understand spawning cycles of their fishing grounds.
    1. Learn how to recognize when females are ripe with eggs and males are milting. This is when the fish are at the height of spawning. Certain fish should be harvested only after they have spent their eggs/milt.
    2. Learn where fish like to spawn and feed. In the case of reef fish, do not fish in areas where fish are spawning during spawning season.
    3. Do not only take larger fish. Ensure that most of the larger fish are left in the ocean to replenish the population, because bigger fish produce more eggs.
    4. Learn when to fish in different areas, leaving a certain area to rest for a period of time to allow fish stocks to replenish. (rotational harvest)