Hawaii Aquaculturists told to Think Big and Get Creative

We need to farm the sea as we farm the land; salmon farming a positive foundation for aquaculture development
June 29, 2006

The potential of the earth’s land mass to produce more food is almost exhausted, yet in another 25 years we will have an additional 2.3 billion mouths to feed. Addressing the annual conference of the Hawaii Aquaculture Association, June 15, 2006, aquaculture consultant John Forster told delegates that it is time for a new approach and a different attitude. Aquaculturists in Hawaii and around the world, need to think big to meet the escalating need for food production.


By the year 2030, FAO predicts that world population will grow from 6 billion to 8.3 billion and calorie consumption climb from 2,800 kcal to 3,050 kcal per person. This increased demand for food will require 1,000 million tonnes more cereals and a further 120 million hectares of land to be farmed. Yet land-based agriculture already uses almost all the usable land: most of the land as yet uncultivated comprises desert, mountains, ice-caps, cities and roads and other unusable areas. Meanwhile, almost 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans, from which we get just two percent of our food.



“Is such a huge disparity between the way we use the land and the way we use the sea inevitable?”  Forster asked. “To meet our growing needs, don’t we have to find a way to make more productive use of the sea?”


Forster challenged the meeting to consider whether if all we do in aquaculture is to feed fish on materials that are grown on land and could be fed to other animals or people, we have achieved much or reached our full potential.  As a possible solution, Forster suggested the U.S. Marine Biomass Program, a $20 million dollar effort that came to an end in1990. It explored the development of a large Ocean Food and Energy Farm, using kelp as a source of biomass for generating natural gas and other products. Given the renewed interest in alternative fuel sources, the time might be right to revisit the concept: marine biomass would produce nutritional, protein-rich byproducts of potential use in aquafeeds as a much needed replacement for fishmeal and land-grown feed ingredients.




Addressing fish farming, Forster said doing something about two million tonnes of projected new seafood demand means a big tonnage approach. And aquaculture as a whole can turn to salmon farming as a model on which to draw. Forster, a former salmon farmer, contends strongly that in contrast to the negative image it has acquired, salmon farming has taught us most of what we know about modern aquaculture and proved that we can farm the sea to produce affordable seafood.


Salmon farming lessons

For aquaculture to meet our future needs for affordable seafood it must, at a minimum:


Use easily replicable, cost effective technology


Have access to large areas of water, such as the long coastlines of Chile and Norway.


Select good species to farm. Salmon is a good because there are several species (Atlantic, Coho, Chinook and Rainbow trout). Hatchery rearing is straightforward and in grows well in cages. Growth is relatively fast and the fillet yield id up to 60 per cent – and it is a highly acceptable meat.


Keep costs down



Encourage corporate investment. It has become fashionable to eschew big business but corporations have the money and clout to meet the demands of the modern market place in terms of volume, availability, quality, price and traceability. It can provide funds and expertise to apply new technologies to feeds, vaccines, health, genetics and mechanization. It also holds advantages such as vertical integration, economies of scale, financial stability and means to meet regulatory compliance. In the salmon sector, 10 producers hold 60 percent of the market.



Market well. Salmon is marketed on its health benefits, its year round availability through value added products, branded programs and generic marketing.


Secure government approval. Salmon farming has succeeded where governments have created space in public waters for it to occur, provided a predictable permit process, developed and refined practical regulations, offered security of tenure to farmers, welcomed corporate investment and funded research and development.


Put absolute priority on livestock welfare. Assuring juvenile quality, water quality and physical conditions, handling, nutrition, stocking density and year class separation and controlling parasites and viruses, vaccinating all are essential.


Potential for Hawaii's aquaculture

Sub-tropical Hawaii, isolated in a huge ocean space and surrounded by clean, clear water has many strengths for the development of large-scale aquaculture. It has multiple species under cultivation, technology leadership, momentum, strong government support and laws. It is well served by research through organizations such as the Oceanic Institute and the University of Hawaii and has won niche markets, such as the supply of SPF shrimp and warm-water marine species. It is a pioneer in deep water farming with the potential for large scale development in the EEZ. Not least, the strong, positive image of Hawaii lends itself to Hawaii-origin labeling.


On the other hand Hawaii must contend with limited land and shallow water, high living, supply and logistical costs and a tangle of regulations. Forster concluded however, that the islands had great potential to become a major force in large-scale aquaculture if it seizes its opportunities



More information:


For more information about Hawaii Aquaculture, visit the Hawaii Aquaculture Association website


Aquaculture Development Program Department of Agriculture State of Hawaii information links page


John Forster may be contacted at: