November 18, 1999 Morning Report (Identification of fishing equipment provided by fisherman Tim Gilliom on board Kama Hele): We spotted a long line fishing rig which we assume was laid by the only ship we have seen in these waters--a 150-200 foot longline vessel. There were about 12 lines laid with 50-100 hooks per rig. A boat of that size would have laid much more gear, yet being that there were only a dozen laid, the longliner was perhaps testing the waters. The rig that we pulled up was freshly baited with frozen sanma, a Japanese mackerel, and the hooks were also from Japan.
Steve Gates, a long line fisherman on a 78-foot boat out of Honolulu explains the technique (Honolulu Advertiser, July 15, 1998, C1+): "While we target one fish like ahi [yellow fin tuna], half our catch ends up being by-catch [fish not targeted]. But the by-catch like tombo [ahi], marlin, and opah carries us: it's all salelable." Joan Clarke of the Honolulu Advertiser writes, "When he goes ahi fishing, Gates is usually away from home for 14 to 21 days; when he targets swordfish, he's out for 45 to 50 days, traveling up to 2,000 miles away from Hawai'i....When he's out at sea, Gates lays as much as 40 miles of line threaded with hundreds of hooks [1400 hooks]. For ahi, the lines go out early in the morning with sanma--pipe mackerel--as bait. The lines sag, reaching depths of 150-200 fathoms (a fathom is 6 feet), where the ahi run. The lines are pulled up in the evening. Swordfish, on the other hand are caught near[er] the surface, so the lines are set at 25-30 fathoms, with squid used for bait. And since swordfish are nocturnal, the lines are set in the evening." Gates says, "We might get three hours of sleep a day in short naps. Lines get tangled, sharks and whales might eat the catch on the line. Swordfish might die and float to the surface and then the albatrosses attack and destroy them."
Some fisheries managers want longline fishing regulated because there has been a decline in the stocks of tuna, swordfish and sharks worldwide. Long line fishing is already illegal in Hawaiian waters out to 75 miles. Ocean waters beyond 200 nautical mile from land (the limit of each country's economic zone) cannot be regulated except by international treaties.
For more information on the quest for Rapa Nui, go to the PVS Homepage.