Hawai‘i Marine Recreational Fishing Survey (HMRFS)

A cooperative project funded by:

DLNR Logo noaa logo sport fish restoration logo

The Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) began working with NOAA Fisheries in 2001 to collect marine, non-commercial (recreational) fishing data through the Hawai‘i Marine Recreational Fishing Survey (HMRFS). DAR and other state and territorial agencies are funded by and partner with NOAA Fisheries through the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), which plays a central role in developing and certifying survey methods and establishing national standards. Decisions on which methods to implement and how to manage data collection for specific geographic areas and fisheries are made at the regional level. To estimate the number of fishing trips taken by non-commercial shoreline and private boat fishers in Hawai‘i, MRIP distributes a mail survey to random households throughout the state. To estimate the number of fish caught, DAR staff collect catch data at various public fishing areas around the state. See the “How the Survey Works” section below for more details on sampling.

HMRFS is also funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program (WSFR). Taxes on various hunting and fishing supplies/equipment as well as fuel taxes and import duties are managed by WSFR and allocated to eligible states and territories based primarily upon the number of licensed hunters or fishers and combined state land and water areas. These federal funds are also matched 3:1 with state funds, so for every $1 provided by the state, $3 is contributed by WSFR. These collective funds support the HMRFS project which provides essential fishery dependent data for resource management purposes intended to enhance and perpetuate non-commercial fishing activities.


For many residents of Hawai‘i, non-commercial fishing includes recreational and subsistence fishing, as well as perpetuating cultural values such as providing fish for friends and neighbors and for various gatherings and events. “Fishing tourism” is also an important part of Hawai‘i’s economy which provides fishing opportunities for visitors who book fishing charters or fish on their own accord. With a steadily growing population and tourism industry, however, the impacts of fishing activities, as well as other stressors such as development, pollution, and runoff, are increasing and putting more strain on nearshore resources. Thus, understanding the biological impact as well as the social importance of recreational and subsistence fishing is a vital part of the management process. It helps decision makers develop policies that ensure quality fishing opportunities for future generations.

The State of Hawai‘i (Territory before 1959) has collected commercial fishing catch and effort data since the late 1940’s via mandatory catch reports and other sources. Non-commercial fishing data, however, has not been collected aside from occasional, short-term surveys. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducts a survey every five years from which the total number of fishers and hunters are estimated for each state. The 2011 survey estimated about 157,000 people over the age of 16 fished recreationally in Hawai‘i in that year, of which about two-thirds (or 104,000) were residents. The estimated number of resident non-commercial fishers in 2011 far outnumbered the roughly 3,800 licensed commercial fishers in Hawai‘i that same year. Though the average catch and effort of a typical non-commercial fisher may be lower than that of a typical commercial fisher, the combined effect of all non-commercial fishers is significant and predominates for certain fisheries. Thus, both commercial and non-commercial data are two critical components needed by resource managers to comprehensively assess the collective effects of fishing on our coastal resources.

In addition to providing data on resource use, HMRFS also provides a “voice” for non-commercial fishers. Data collection has been ongoing since 2001 and continues to provide a historical account of non-commercial catch and effort in Hawai‘i. In the event a harvest allocation or catch quota is decided, this data can provide managers with the information needed to determine a total allowable catch or catch limit. If non-commercial catch was not counted, it’s possible that a harvest allocation for non-commercial fishers would be denied when these allocations were calculated.

How the Survey Works

MRIP uses two methods of data collection in Hawai‘i. For each two-month survey period (known as a wave), a random sample of households throughout the state are mailed a Fishing Effort Survey (FES). The FES is used to estimate effort, or the number of trips made by shoreline or private boat fishers. At the same time, trained DAR surveyors visit public boat ramps, beaches, piers, and other publicly accessible fishing sites to count and interview fishers as part of the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS). Eligible fishers include those using a rod-and-reel, spear, net, or other method of harvest. The APAIS is used to estimate catch rate or the number of fish caught on each fishing trip. During an interview, surveyors identify, measure, and weigh the fish that were caught, and collect information about the fish that were released. Sampling sites are randomly selected but weighted according to current fishing pressures to ensure that more active sites are sampled more often.

Data from the FES and APAIS are then used to calculate statewide estimates of total catch and effort by species, fishing mode (shoreline or private boat), and area fished (inland, state, or federal waters).

A total of 12 surveyors, 1 data manager, and 1 project manager are currently employed under the HMRFS project. Island by island, the staff breakdown is:

  • Big Island– 4 surveyors
  • Maui– 1 surveyor
  • Moloka‘i– 1 surveyor
  • O‘ahu– 5 surveyors, 1 data manager, 1 project manager
  • Kaua‘i– 1 surveyor

How will the data be used?

HMRFS provides essential fishery data to DAR, NOAA Fisheries, and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Resource managers use the data to improve stock assessments, study species life cycles, and develop recommendations for regulatory and allocation decisions. In addition, the data collected will…

  • Contribute to damage assessments for oil spills, pollution, and other accidents that degrade non-commercial fisheries.
  • Contribute to the planning of habitat conservation and restoration strategies important to fishery resources.
  • Help the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) forecast demands for new piers, marinas, and boat ramps, and to locate these facilities where they will be most useful.
  • Provide additional information to support the FAD program, Artificial Reefs and other recreational fishing programs in Hawai‘i.

How can you help?

As a recreational or subsistence fisher, you can play an important role in Hawai‘i fisheries management. Your participation and cooperation with HMRFS field surveyors and mail surveys will provide valuable information that will help ensure that ocean fishing in Hawai‘i remains a productive and rewarding experience. For more information about HMRFS or to provide feedback, please contact the survey manager at the Honolulu DAR office.

Good Luck and Great Fishing!!


HMRFS Brochure (pdf, 3.1 Mb)


HMRFS Newsletter June 2011 (pdf, 548 Kb)
HMRFS Newsletter October 2006 (pdf, 219 Kb)
HMRFS Newsletter November 2004 (pdf, 1.4 Mb)
HMRFS WAVE Report February 2003 (pdf, 204 Kb)
HMRFS WAVE Report March 2002 (pdf, 1.5 Mb)

HMRFS Survey Forms

Sample HMRFS Intercept Survey Form (pdf, legal size, 266 Kb)


Hawaii Marine Recreational Fishing Survey

Department of Land & Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 330, Honolulu, HI 96813
Voice: 808-587-0100
FAX: 808-587-0115

Survey Manager Tom Ogawa
Data Manager Steve Kaneko
Survey Workers David Akimoto, Imiola Akutagawa, Richard Beebe, Linda Castro, Jason Chang, Patrick “Pepe” Conley, Matt Dill, Kekai Edens, Genesis “Jinx” Enos, Byron Hardwick, Nate Nam,and Myles Vogelgesang

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service, F/ST1, RM 12455
1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910

MRIP Task Leader Richard Cody
MRIP Statistician Thomas Sminkey

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Our sincere appreciation to Michael A. Nelson, first HMRFS survey manager, and Maury F. Osborn, former MRFSS Task Leader, who were instrumental in bringing NOAA Fisheries and DAR together to bring MRFSS (now MRIP) back to Hawai‘i. Our gratitude to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Honolulu Laboratory and Western Pacific Fishery Information Network for advice and generous donations of computer equipment in support of the HMRFS project. Mahalo to the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, especially the Recreational Data Task Force headed by the late Richard Shiroma, for their encouragement and support of recreational fisheries data collection. And last but not least, mahalo to all of the HMRFS surveyors past and present for their dedication and time spent in the field building trusted relationships with the public.