< Indicators

West Hawaii - Social Indicators

Last updated: 2019

Human relationships with ocean environments are diverse, incorporating social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental dimensions (Kittinger et al. 2012, Cinner et al. 2013). Humans are an integral part of ecosystems and they can be both stressors and stewards of the natural environment. Correspondingly, social data contain information on a range of human activities (e.g., distribution, practices, and interactions). Ultimately, ecosystem-based management requires ecologically meaningful information coupled with diverse human uses and practices at operationally relevant spatial and temporal scales.

Based on outcomes from stakeholder engagement (Ingram et al. 2018) and information from social-ecological work (e.g., Kittinger et al. 2012), we have identified a suite of social indicators for West Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystem. Our goal was to integrate dynamic and spatially explicit data on human uses, values, and governance. Information on human dimensions and social indicators can be direct inputs into ecosystem models as well as shape the direction of ecosystem-based management. This work is ongoing; the ultimate outcome will be to improve our ability to better assess West Hawai‘i’s ecosystem and to provide information on current and predicted states of ecosystem integrity under different scenarios.

  • hi-social-indicators-population-growth-chart-270x128.png

    Human population growth can result in a range of pressures on marine ecosystems. As resident populations increase, so can impacts such as overuse and habitat degradation. Technological advances, management practices, engagement in stewardship, and regulatory actions can modify the status and trends of individual activities. Because historical and reliable time-series information on specific activities is often lacking, tracking resident population growth serves as a broad indicator of human activities that can either directly (e.g., fishing) or indirectly (e.g., new development) influence the integrity and function of marine ecosystems.

    Resident population of Hawai‘i Island from 1831 to 2016 (185 years) was obtained from the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT; http://dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/ databook/). In 1831, approximately 45,800 people lived on the island. That number steadily decreased over the next 40 years, reaching a minimum of 16,000 in 1872. Resident population subsequently increased until the 1940s, when it began declining to a low of approximately 60,000 residents from 1959–1968. Since the beginning of the 1970s, the population of Hawai‘i Island has rapidly increased by over three-fold to nearly 200,000 residents in 2016.

  • Visitor arrivals and spending overtime

    Compared to other sectors, tourism is distinguished by both its size and share of Hawai‘i’s economy. In fact, tourism expenditures represent the single largest source of economic activity in Hawai‘i (State of Hawai‘i DBEDT 2006). Moreover, many visitors spend the majority of their vacations at Hawai‘i’s beaches and nearshore environment. Beach and water sports, such as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving, are by far the most popular recreational activities among visitors (State of Hawai‘i DBEDT 2006).

    Visitor arrivals and visitor spending for West Hawai‘i was obtained from State of Hawai‘i DBEDT and serve as indicators of tourism use of the marine environment and the importance of tourism to the local economy. From 1990 to 2016, visitor arrivals to Kona increased by over 30%, with approximately 992,000 arrivals in 1990 and over 1.3 million in 2016 (Visitor Arrivals). Between 70 and 80% of total arrivals are domestic visitors. The total number of days spent by all visitors in West Hawai‘i has increased nearly twofold, from approximately 4.93 to 9.35 million days (Visitor Days). Further, the average length of stay has increased 42% over the last 27 years, from an average of 4.97 to 7.05 days.

    Annual visitor spending in West Hawai‘i increased by 62% since 2004, to nearly 2.1 billion dollars in 2016 (Annual Spending). Visitor spending is highly seasonal, with peaks in both wintertime (December/January) and summertime (June/July) (Monthly Spending). December spending, which is the highest single month of visitor spending each year, increased by 75% over the 13-year time period, from 133 to 233 million dollars.

  • Map of impervious surfaces in West Hawaii

    Land-based development can affect nearshore coastal environments by creating impervious surfaces, such as pavement, roads, buildings, and roof tops. These man-made surfaces prevent rainwater from being absorbed into the land. The modification of natural land into impervious surfaces increases the amount of runoff from streets and sidewalks and influences nearshore ocean salinity and temperature.

    We mapped the percent cover of impervious surfaces and estimated the potential runoff to the nearshore marine environment in 2017 (Impervious Surface) using land use and land cover data from NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (https://coast.noaa.gov/ccapftp). The highest density of impervious surfaces and associated runoff is near Keāhole Point, Kailua-Kona, and between Puakō and Kawaihae. Overall, the total area of impervious surfaces increased by nearly 35% during 1992–2017, from approximately 81 km2 to 109 km2 (Total Impervious Surface Area).

  • On site sewage disposal

    On-site sewage disposal systems (e.g., cesspools and septic tanks) and injection wells are common in much of West Hawai‘i, where municipal sewer systems have not been constructed across a majority of the region. Nearly half of all OSDS in the state are located on Hawai‘i Island, and nearly 85% of those are cesspools (Whittier & El-Kadi 2014), where the effluent receives no treatment prior to being released into the environment. OSDS can leach nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pharmaceuticals, and pathogens into groundwater and streams that flow to the ocean. Abaya et al. (2018) performed a dye-tracer study in Puakō, a community with homes located within a few hundred meters of the coast, and found that the travel time of wastewater to the nearshore waters ranged from 9 hours to 3 days. This runoff can result in algal overgrowth of corals, increased coral disease, and potential disease threats to humans (Anderson et al. 2002).

    We have included the following indicators based on Hawai‘i’s Department of Health (http://health.hawaii.gov/sdwb) information to capture the influence of OSDS and injection wells (henceforth referred to simply as OSDS) on the marine environment: total number of OSDS, total effluent released, and total nitrogen flux. All indicators were compiled taking into account the time wastewater takes to reach the coastline. Specifically, we only included OSDS located from the shoreline to the one-year time of travel line of ground water (TOT; black line). The one-year TOT demarcation was chosen to indicate the likely intrusion of pathogens and nutrients to the nearshore, thereby capturing the potential impact of wastewater on human and ecological health (Whittier & El-Kadi 2014). It should be noted that the amount of nitrogen from wastewater that enters the groundwater is considered highly conservative and will likely reach the coast even when the source OSDS lies well beyond the one-year travel line. The values presented here are therefore a conservative estimate of the total effluent and nitrogen flux actually reaching the coastline.

  • Reef fish fishing non-commercial catch overtime in West Hawaii

    Reef fisheries have substantial social, cultural, and economic value in Hawai‘i, yet knowledge regarding their sustainability is limited (Pauly & Zeller 2014). This is in part because coral reef fisheries are characteristically multi-species, multi-gear, and have significant non-commercial components (Kittinger et al. 2015). Non-commercial fishing plays an important social, cultural, and subsistence/consumptive role for local communities in Hawai‘i and is estimated to be over 10 times the reported commercial catch (by weight) on Hawai‘i Island (McCoy et al. 2018)

    Total non-commercial catch was calculated by gear type from 2004 to 2013 from island-wide average annual catch estimates of Hawai‘i Island reef fish (McCoy et al. 2018). Here, we estimated catch for West Hawai‘i using proximity to roads and shoreline accessibility, distance to nearest harbor or launch ramp, gear-specific spatial footprints, and gear prohibitions within MPA boundaries to spatially distribute island-level catch estimates from Upolu Point to South Point (Wedding et al. 2018). Data were filtered by species to include nearshore reef-associated finfish only.

    The estimated annual average catch was nearly 406,000 lb during the 2004–2013 time period (Non- Commercial Catch). A five-fold difference in the annual average catch was observed, indicating spatial differences in catch among different regions of West Hawai‘i. Approximately 29–33 thousand pounds of reef fish were caught per year in some of the most heavily fished areas, such as between Puakō and Kawaihae and near Kailua-Kona, while 5–8 thousand pounds of reef fish were caught in areas with less fishing, such as in the vicinity of South Point. Overall, the non-commercial reef fish fishery has declined in recent years: total catch in 2013 was estimated at 265,200 lb, a roughly 50% drop from the 525,600 lb caught in 2008. Line fishing was the dominant gear type, constituting between 55 and 70% of the total catch.

  • Reef fish fishing commercial catch overtime in West Hawaii

    Commercial reef-fish catch is reported to Hawai‘i DAR by the reporting blocks as shown in Commercial Catch data were filtered by species to include nearshore reef-associated finfish only. A majority of the reported commercially caught reef fish over the 2003–2017 time period was from the reporting block that spans from Keāhole Point to Miloli‘i, with an average annual catch of 8,400 lb (Commercial Catch). Total catch for all of West Hawai‘i varied over six-fold across the 15-year time period, ranging from a low of 5,500 lb in 2004, to a high of 34,400 lb in 2010 (Annual Commercial Catch). As with non-commercial catch, line fishing was by far the dominant gear type, ranging from 60 to 100% of the commercial reef fish catch. The dominant reef fish species caught in the commercial fishery, by weight, are ’ū’ū, or menpachi (soldierfish, Myripristis spp.) and uku (gray jobfish, Aprion virescens), which combined account for 70% of the catch. When compared to non-commercial catch, commercial reef fish fishing is a very small fraction (1/24) of the total catch from coral reef ecosystems in West Hawai‘i.

  • Reef fish fishing commerical aquarium catch overtime

    Aquarium collection is the live capture of ornamental aquatic organisms for sale in the aquarium industry. Commercial aquarium collection is the most economically valuable commercial inshore fishery in the state (Walsh et al. 2013). Aquarium collectors typically target juvenile fish, and catch is reported in number of individuals taken rather than by weight. As with other commercial fisheries, total catch is recorded by reporting block. However, in 2013, smaller reporting blocks, or subzones, were implemented specifically for aquarium collection in West Hawai‘i. Here, we report annual average aquarium catch by subzone from 2013 to 2017 to provide greater spatial resolution on the take of aquarium fishes (Commercial Aquarium Catch); however, total commercial aquarium catch is provided, by species, from 2003 to 2017 (Annual Commercial Aquarium Catch).

    The average annual commercial aquarium catch differs greatly along West Hawai‘i. For example, 80–85 thousand individual fish are caught per year in the reporting block that spans north from Keāhole Point to Waikoloa (Commercial Aquarium Catch), which comprises 25% of the total catch in an average year. In contrast, fewer than 10,000 individuals were caught from the reporting block that spans south from Keāhole Point to Kailua-Kona. The total catch across the region from 2003 to 2017 was, on average, approximately 360,000 individual fish per year (Annual Commercial Aquarium Total). However, large year-to-year differences were observed, ranging from an industry maximum of over 452,000 individuals in 2004, to a minimum 288,072 individuals in 2009, a difference of more than 160,000 individuals. Laui’pala (yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens) is the most popular aquarium fish caught in West Hawai‘i, accounting for 82% of average annual catch over the 15-year time period. Kole (goldring surgeonfish, Ctenochaetus strigosus) and pāku’iku’i (Achilles tang, Acanthurus achilles) account for 12% and 2.5% of average total catch, respectively, while all other species comprise less than 3% in an average year.

    In July 2017, the Hawai‘i Circuit Court ruled that, based upon a Hawai‘i Supreme Court opinion issued on September 6, 2017, existing ‘aquarium’ permits for use of fine mesh nets/traps to catch aquatic life for aquarium purposes were illegal and invalid pending a full review of the fishery under the Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Act. Although collecting was still allowed as long as fine mesh nets/traps were not used, total catch in 2017 would presumably have been higher if not for the ruling.

  • Commercial fishing coastal pelagics

    We define coastal pelagic fishes as two species: akule (bigeye scad, Selar crumenophthalmus) and ‘ōpelu (mackerel scad, Decapterus macarellus). Though they can be found seasonally in large schools proximate to shore, they are distinguished from reef fish because they principally reside in nearshore pelagic waters.

    On average, nearly 80%, or 113,000 lb of coastal pelagic catch comes from one reporting block (101), which extends from Keāhole Point to Miloli‘i (Coastal Pelagics). ‘Ōpelu dominate the coastal pelagic catch, comprising greater than 95% of the average annual catch (Annual Coastal Pelagics Catch). During the last 15 years, the total catch has shown an overall decline, with present day total catch (77,000 lb) approximately 1/3 of the total catch in 2003 (218,700 lb).

  • Commercial fishing pelagic catches overtime

    Pelagic species include some of the most highly recognizable food fish, such as tunas and mahimahi, as well as popular sport fishing species, like marlins and swordfish. Pelagics are typically large-bodied, fast-swimming fishes that live in pelagic waters with geographic ranges spanning much of the Pacific. Pelagics are the largest fishery in West Hawai‘i in terms of both weight caught and estimated dollar value.

    In the vicinity of West Hawai‘i, over 70% of the average annual commercial catch of pelagic fishes was from the two reporting blocks off South Kona (i.e., from Keāhole Point to Miloli‘i) (Pelagics). Tunas, namely ahi (bigeye and yellowfin tunas, Thunnus obesus and Thunnus albacares) and aku (skipjack tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis), comprise the largest proportion of catch, with an average of 62.5% over the 15-year time period (Annual Pelagics Catch). A‘u (striped marlin, Kajikia audax), ono (wahoo, Acanthocybium solandri), and mahimahi (Coryphaena hippurus) each account for a similar share of average annual catch (13%, 13%, and 10%, respectively). Across all of West Hawai‘i, the pelagic fishery averaged 1.24 million pounds of total catch per year, with a peak of 1.9 million pounds in 2012. In more recent years, the total catch has declined: the 2017 total catch was 1.023 million pounds, representing a 46% decline in just 5 years.

  • Commercial fishing bottom fish

    The most commonly caught bottomfish species, comprised of six deep water snapper species and one grouper, are referred to as the “Deep 7.” The Deep 7 are more actively managed than other fisheries, including annual catch limits, vessel registration, and reporting requirements. Bottomfish are primarily caught with deep-sea hand line in depths of approximately 300–1300 ft (~100–400 m).

    On average, nearly 1/3 of the total commercial bottomfish catch near West Hawai‘i was reported in the block that includes North Kona and South Kohala (Bottomfish). However, the total catch across the region has varied considerably over the last 15 years, with a six-fold difference between the lowest catch (12,350 lb; 2004) and the highest catch (73,600 lb; 2009) (Annual Bottomfish Catch). The dominant species caught in West Hawai‘i was ‘ōpakapaka (pink snapper, Pristipomoides filamentosus), comprising approximately 52% of the annual catch by weight.

  • Commercial fishing annual revenue overtime in West Hawaii

    The annual revenue generated and the total fishers engaged in commercial fishing activities in West Hawai‘i are shown from 2003 to 2016. All data were obtained from the State of Hawai‘i DAR dealer reports (Walsh et al. 2013, PIFSC 2018), specifically for fishers that live in West Hawai‘i (based on fisher zip code). Revenue values were corrected for inflation to 2016 dollar amounts using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Honolulu Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (www.bls.gov). The pelagics fishery is by far the most economically important to the region, generating a total of $47.4 million or 62.3% of the total revenue from all commercial fisheries in West Hawai‘i over the 14-year time period (Commercial Fishery Revenue). The commercial collection of aquarium fishes was the second largest fishery in total revenue, accounting for $18.9 million, or 24.9%. Bottomfish, coastal pelagics, and reef fish constituted 5.8%, 3.9%, and 2.5% of the total revenue generated, respectively. Each of the fisheries’ revenue exhibited year-to-year differences. For example, bottomfish had over a four-fold change in annual revenue in just six years, increasing from a low of $135,670 in 2011 to a high of $571,114 in 2016.

    As with total revenue, the total number of fishers engaged in commercial fishing in West Hawai‘i varied over the 14-year time period, ranging between 446 and 546 fishers (Commercial Fisher Engagement). The number of commercial fishers in 2016 was 446, representing an 18% decline from the peak of 546 fishers in 2004.

    When comparing the total annual revenue with the total annual catch from each commercial fishery from 2003 to 2016, revenue and catch for pelagics, coastal pelagics, and reef fish were positively correlated (R2 = 0.71, 0.74, and 0.91, respectively; p less than 0.05), indicating that in general, the greater the total catch, the greater the total revenue generated for a given commercial fishery. The annual revenue and total catch from both the aquarium fishery and the bottomfish fishery were not correlated, indicating that market value is driven by external factors beyond total catch. In addition, no correlation was found between the annual number of commercial fishers and the combined annual catch from all commercial fisheries, indicating that the number of fishers were not a primary driver in year-to-year fluctuations in total catch.