Hukilau Foods has finally given up the dream and is winding up operations. Founded 11 years ago as Cates International, the operation was a pioneer of deep-sea aquaculture and held as a model of what the future of sustainable aquaculture might be.
According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Hukilau, an affiliate of Grove Farm Fish & Poi LLC, and majority-owned by a firm led by AOL founder, Steve Case, has abandoned a bankruptcy recovery plan and will terminate its 28-acre ocean lease It has already hauled in its sea cages. The company plans to retain the hatchery for sale or to start a new moi business if investment is forthcoming.
Founded by Randy Cates, Cates International successfully produced Pacific Threadfin (Polydactylus sexfilis), a fish known locally in Hawaii as moi. In early times, moi was so prized it was reserved for royalty. More recently it had become depleted in Hawaii's waters. Cates' farmed moi was in great demand by the supermarkets and fine dining restaurants and the company responded with an ambitious expansion plan to increase production four-fold to 5 million pounds a year.
In 2006, Case stepped in through his company, Visionary LLC, to help finance the expansion, acquiring a controlling interest in the firm and subsequently invested heavily in the business.
Hatchery and fish survival problems plagued production and the relationship between Cates and Visionary became acrimonious. Cates, who remained as president and shareholder in the company, blamed Visionary for ruining the business and sued Visionary in 2010 and was removed from his position shortly afterwards, the newspaper reports.
In light of a $2.5 million investment since bankruptcy was declared, Visionary has proposed an asset sale that would give it possession of Hukilau's assets, including the name, hatchery, feed barge and boat. and would assume responsibility fo a $3.6 million National Marine Fisheries Service load.