Hawaii’s impact from Corona-Local Fishermen

Aloha Kakou, I am a small commercial fishing/charter boat owner and wanted to bring awareness to our local micro-industry’s condition due to Corona virus and lack of need for our product.

I saw a report regarding the Hawaii long-liner fishing industry, but wanted to express how our local independent fishing and charter boat business have been gravely impacted. So many local fishermen whos sole income is from fishing and selling their catches as well as the charter fishing industry have lost 90-100% of their income due to tourism shutdown and Covid restrictions. It is understandable that the islands want to protect themselves from the pandemic, however, just like the hospitality business and other tourism dependent business derive income from visitors, the local Hawaii fishing community is painfully suffering. The fish markets have all but turned away our catches and although some restrictions on hotels and restaurants have eased, we are still basically shut down as a small percentage of our catch is purchased due to the huge drop in demand. And with no cruise ships and planes landing, we have all but stopped fishing as fish sources from other areas have impacted our industry and limited the market for our locally caught fresh fish, as well as charter bookings cancelled and no future business is anticipated.

Hawaii island in particular has had a huge blow to its local fishing, as the 2019 Kilauea eruption took the Pohoiki boat launch, which was used primarily for commercial fishing use of small boats, has severely impacted the communities’ ability to source fresh fish from the South East Hawaii coast, and with this Covid blow to the small independent locals, it needs to be voiced. The larger long-liner boats are typically corporate owned and have a bit more cushion when it comes to absorbing an economic downfall, and the Honolulu fish markets buy from these and other sources. As these local people try to feed their families by selling their catches, they now simply stay at the dock and not fish, or simply have stopped fishing and tried finding other work to support their families. The local Economic agencies have to be aware of these facts. Hawaii small independent fishermen as a whole has suffered gravely. The CARES act has allocated 4.3 million in funds specifically for the Hawaii fishing industry, however we have yet to hear about when they will be disbursed?? All we can do is hope and pray that some end is in sight.

Mahalo for your time and interest in this information.

Capt. Jerry Gillgren
F/V Jovan Lee