Honolulu, Hawaii - The Hawaii Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association (HAAA) strongly applauds the decision by Governor Neil Abercrombie to sign Senate Bill 1511 into law on July 12, 2011. HAAA members and others worked closely with supportive Legislators throughout the 2011 Session to highlight the importance of the bill to growing this valuable strategic sector of Hawaii’s economy.
The bill broadens Hawaii’s rigorous leasing process by providing commercial aquaculture farmers on State land and ocean sites with the opportunity to have up to a 65-year lease (formerly 35 years), at the discretion of the administering agency, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). In addition, the measure permits farmers in good standing to request lease continuations at the end of their term and expands the possibilities for complementary products through waste water recycling over plant crops and aquaponics.
The Governor initially announced that he had put SB 1511 on the Potential Veto List to give him and his staff more time to study the measure, particularly the impacts of offshore aquaculture. This is a standard practice for every administration. The Washington D.C. based N.G.O., Food and Water Watch (FWW), and their local organization, Pono Aquaculture (PA), continued efforts begun during the Legislative Session, to try to kill the bill with misinformation and mass form e-mails, but to no avail. HAAA and industry supporters were able to address the baseless claims of these anti-open ocean aquaculture (OOA) activists.
Among the issues reviewed was the tradition and long history of a strong State policy to develop land and ocean aquaculture and the lengthy and rigorous permitting process to get an ocean lease. In addition, the Obama Administration’s recent strong support for the development of the marine aquaculture industry as a means to create jobs, improve coastal state economies and lessen the country’s dependence on imported seafood was another important factor. The pioneering Hawaii leasing process requires an Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement to carefully analyze impacts; is transparent; and solicits public input at numerous points, which will take a year or more to complete. Further, the industry noted the resulting permits and lease have many safeguards “built in” and provide for thorough government oversight and monitoring of farms.
In his message upon signing the bill, the Governor stated, he “has always been supportive of aquaculture and understands the need for long-term leases for financing purposes.” Moreover, he expects “the DLNR will structure leases so that long-term impacts can be properly monitored.” Ron Weidenbach, President of HAAA said that, “Signing SB 1511 shows the State is firmly behind aquaculture to diversify and expand its economy on all islands. The bill is consistent with the Governor’s goal of greater food security for Hawaii that is nurtured by growing sustainable industries compatible with our culture and our pristine environment.”
Bill Spencer, the President of Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc. (HOT) said, “The permit and lease process is incredibly thorough, taking several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete for projects like HOT. It affords the State with multiple safeguards that protect the ocean and the public. Companies must demonstrate a sincere commitment to environmental responsibility to obtain necessary permits, so not just anyone can be part of this industry.” Spencer’s company, HOT, is the latest to be granted a Conservation District Use Permit and open ocean lease in Hawaii State waters to farm Yellow Fin tuna off the coast of Hawaii Island.
Randy Cates, President of Cates International Inc. and the first Hawaii OOA lease recipient in 2001 agrees, “Hawaii has documented that OOA has real potential for the U.S. and while a very challenging business, fish farming can be sustainably developed and managed. “ Cates, who is a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s, Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, believes, “It is absolutely essential that the United States increase domestic production of seafood through expanding its land-based and ocean aquaculture potentials. Our country should not rely so much on imports, currently 85% of supply, to meet the growing demand for healthy seafood.”
In signing SB 1511, Governor Abercrombie has clearly shown he recognizes the strategic importance of land and ocean based aquaculture to the Islands’ economy and the pursuit of greater food security. The Governor’s strong support indicates he wants Hawaii to continue to be a leader in commercial aquaculture research and development for the benefit of the state and the nation.