Climate Variation, Ecosystem Dynamics, and Fisheries Management in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Climate Variation, Ecosystem Dynamics, and Fisheries Management in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Jeffrey J. Polovina and Wayne R. Haight

Climate Variation, Ecosystem Dynamics, and Fisheries Management in the Northwestern Hawaiian IslandsThis is part of Ecosystem Approaches for Fisheries Management
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Description

A dramatic ecosystem shift from high to low carrying capacity occurred in the late 1980s in the northern portion of the Hawaiian Archipelago. This shift was observed for a range of trophic levels and species including seabirds, monk seals, spiny lobsters, and reef fishes. Concurrent with the ecosystem shift were physical changes associated with weakening of the Aleutian Low Pressure System and the Subtropical Counter Current. A trap fishery operating at Maro Reef rapidly depleted the spiny lobster population after the ecosystem shift. At an adjacent bank, Laysan Island, closed to commercial lobster fishing, the spiny lobster population declined much more gradually but ultimately was depleted as well. Harvest from the lobster fishery during much of the 1990s averaged about 25% of the harvest in the 1980s. Fishermen adjusted to the reduced harvest by moving into the pelagic longline fishery which was apparently not impacted by the
ecosystem shift.

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