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Open ocean aquaculture in Hawaii is expected to expand by 900 per cent by 2013. (Photo: NOAA)

Coalition knocks nascent Hawaii industry

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Monday, April 12, 2010, 21:40 (GMT + 9)

A new coalition of local environmental groups released a report last week that was critical of the relatively young ocean aquaculture industry in Hawaii.

The report, compiled by Washington, DC-based Food & Water Watch, alleges that factory fish farms in Hawaii damage the environment, use antibiotics for the fish, have inadequate monitoring and have reaped little to no economic benefits. The report was released by the Pono Aquaculture Alliance, which includes Maui Tomorrow, Sierra Club, Apono Hawaii and the Kanaka Council.

The coalition alleges that fish farms have interfered with marine mammals, caused damage to habitats using heavy anchors, spread diseases from farmed fish to wild fish, and used chemicals or antibiotics that seeped into ocean waters.

"We found they use chicken in their feed so that's getting into the environment, as well as amounts of soy," said Christina Lizzi, the report's author and organizer from Food & Water Watch, Star Bulletin reports.

The fish farm industry in Hawaii, the report states, is expected to expand by 900 per cent in production by 2013 but will provide little in the way of job growth.

The three companies named in the report — Kona Blue Water Farms Inc, Hukilau Farms LLC and Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc — disputed the group's findings.

"Everything they've written about has been very inflammatory and not very factual," said Randy Cates, chief executive officer of Hukilau Farms. "It's like reading the National Enquirer."

The report claims Hukilau received USD 1.8 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"I would love to know where that is," Cates said. "We've never received that."

Neil Sims, president and CEO of Kona Blue, said the report's claims of poor monitoring are false. The company's monitoring efforts are posted on its Web site.

"We've had five years of operations, and the data is incontrovertible," Sims said. "There's no impact. You can't tell the difference in water quality. ... That's a beautiful fact that offers us great promise here."

Bill Spencer, CEO of Hawaii Oceanic Technology, said his company voluntarily performed an environmental impact statement, which is not required by state law for open-ocean fish farms. Environmental assessments, which are more narrow in scope, are required.

"It's an industry that's in its infancy," Spencer said. "Hawaii is the only state that has a permitted infrastructure. Food & Water Watch is trying to prevent the federal government from adopting Hawaii's regulatory infrastructure."

Coalition representatives said it is not pushing to shut down the industry, just for stronger regulations. Food & Water Watch's report suggested stronger agency coordination and expanding land-based agriculture.

"These agencies really aren't speaking with one another," Lizzi said. "We're trying to get out there that Hawaii needs to take a step back and see what's out there."

By Denise Recalde
[email protected]
www.fis.com

Photo Courtesy of FIS Member  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS
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