Three further ventures are in the works for Hawaiianwaters, including: Hawai`i Oceanic Technology Inc. (HOT),Indigo Seafood (IS) and Maui Fresh Fish LLC (MFF). BothHOT and IS are proposing operations off of the north KohalaCoast, Hawai`i Island.
MFF requested a lease for a siteoff of Lana`i Island in 2007 but met with resistance fromlocal ishermen and it is unclear at this time if the venturewill move forward.
HOT’s goal is the production of 12million pounds of yellowin and big eye tuna annually at a 247-acre proposed ocean lease site, using 12 enormouscages.
Two contested cases iled by native Hawaiiansagainst the Board of Land and Natural Resources decisionto award HOT a Conservation District Use Permit areawaiting judgment.
Should the HOT operation move forward, it would expandthe industry’s current overall production by 530 percent.
Factoring in the projected increase in production at Hukilau Farms, industry production would increase by780 percent.
Given the demonstrated negative impactsof operations at the current production capacity, sucha drastic increase is cause for great concern and shouldbe addressed by the legislature. But, because permittingis done on a case-by-case basis, the overall cumulativeimpacts of increased production on ocean ecosystems arenot being considered.
The ocean ish-farming industry in Hawai`i has been therecipient of much government investment and promotionat both the state and federal level. Unfortunately, it isquestionable whether the return to the local Hawaiianeconomy is comparable to the costs paid by taxpayersand the environment, especially when weighed against alternative ish farming methods such as land-basedrecirculating aquaponic systems.
Public money for private prot
KBWF (now owned by Keahole Point Fish LLC) and HukilauFarms combined plan to create 39 jobs by 2013. Thesejobs will cost taxpayers more than $84,000 each whenfactoring in over $3.3 million in public subsidies that thecompanies have beneited from directly or indirectly — not including Hawai`i Act 221 High Tech tax credits.
Thestate derives only a small percentage in rent from oceanleases — with a base around $2,000 per year or 1 percent of revenue, whichever is greater, that is funneled back intothe administrative costs of the aquaculture development program.
But despite ongoing inancial support andlow lease costs, both of the ocean ish farms in Hawai`i havebeen delinquent in rent payments.
KBWF has demonstrated that its model of commercialaquaculture is not proitable. In January 2010, KBWF soldits ocean ish farm to Keahole Point Fish LLC.
Despite$1.8 million in funding from NOAA, nearly $200,000 infederal stimulus grants and contracts, Hawai`i high-techtax credits, nearly $10 million from investors and a product sold only in high-end restaurants and retailers, KBWF didnot achieve a level of proitability to sustain its grow-out operations.
On January 8, 2010, the Board of Landand Natural Resources unanimously approved the transferof KBWF’s lease for 90 acres of Hawaiian waters to acompany registered just two months prior as a foreign LLCin Delaware — Keahole Point Fish LLC.
The board failedto question the applicants who were present at the meetingabout their experience and how they proposed to turn thefailing KBWF into a proitable enterprise.
KBWF willcontinue to manage sales and marketing of Kona Kampachias well as conduct research at their land-based hatchery at Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i Authority.
Economic comparison between ocean sh farming and land-based aquaponics
Because the existing ocean ish farms in Hawai`i are privateventures, their inancial records are not accessible tothe public. Therefore, the total amount required to fundone farm is unknown. However, what is known is that $13 million is being invested in the expansion of HukilauFoods.
This number does not account for the moneyinvested in starting HOARP or Cates International.Viable alternatives such as recirculating aquaculturesystems could provide a better investment. A comparison
Pacic threadsh off the Hawaiian coast. Photo courtesy of NOAA.