Virus Prompts Subsistence, Recreational Hawaii Fishing Boom

Jan 19, 2021

HONOLULU — An increase in the number of anglers plying Hawaii's shores has provided much needed food and recreation while helping keep supply shops afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fishing supply store personnel said noncommercial fishing in Hawaii has boomed since the outbreak of COVID-19, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported  Monday.

Brent Young, owner of Brian's Fishing Supply in Honolulu, said customers include new fishers who want to learn and older residents who have not fished in decades but now have more time to drop a line.

"There's no sports, there's nothing to watch, there's nothing to do. So they come back and they just want to fish," Young said.

Many others have lost jobs during the pandemic and turned to fishing to supplement their food supply.
Customers "come in to say they catch the food because they're not working, and they've been very thankful that we've been open," Young said.

Matthew Uza, fishing manager at West Marine on Oahu, said the business had a $200,000 increase in sales in 2020 over 2019.

Uza said some customers tell him they can no longer afford groceries.

"They are literally having to catch food to survive," Uza said.

Avery Berido, an employee at J Hara Store on Hawaii island, said the business has a mix of recreational and subsistence customers.

"We get a lot of both," Berido said. "People who do like to fish have more time to fish, and other people (fish) especially because they have to supplement their food supply."

A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey found 66% of noncommercial anglers said they fished for food, while 36% said the catch was "extremely or very important to their regular diet."

Data from NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program indicated noncommercial fishing trips by individuals doubled between March and August and fishing trips almost tripled for boats and private charters.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.