Hawaii State Land Board Grants 35 Year Lease for First Deep Ocean Aquaculture Site in United States
The Board of Land and Natural Resources of the State of Hawaii, in a unanimous vote granted an application from Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc. for a 35 year lease on the company’s 247 acre (one square kilometer) deep open ocean aquaculture site, permitted by the same board in October 2009. “This is a historic precedent for Hawaii and the United States,” said Bill Spencer, CEO. The U.S lags behind the rest of the world in open ocean aquaculture because of the lack of a regulatory infrastructure to farm seafood in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Hawaii is the only state with a law on the books that allows open ocean aquaculture and has a comprehensive legal framework for leasing an ocean column to companies that want to farm the sea. “We are happy to have been held to and met the highest possible environmental standards Hawaii can impose, and are glad to be moving forward with the unanimous support of the land board,” Spencer said.
“What is different about our site is that while we are in State territorial waters, it is very deep, 1,320 feet which allows us to grow large volumes of seafood in a small foot print. The ocean water at the site is abundant and will quickly mineralize effluents making for healthy fish and a healthy ocean environment,” Spencer said. The company’s goal is to demonstrate egg-to-plate tuna aquaculture using a suite of proven technologies combined to make deep ocean aquaculture environmentally responsible, efficient and economically sustainable. The company also hopes to make a major contribution to the Big Island economy and the State of Hawaii with 60 direct and indirect jobs, tax revenues and the stimulus needed to create a host of support businesses that can service a growing aquaculture industry.
Hawaii is already seen as the Silicon Valley of aquaculture due to the open ocean aquaculture law, the high concentration of land and ocean based fish farming activities, the existence of world-class institutes, ocean scientists and marine biologists, and a 200,000 square mile Exclusive Economic Zone. If allowed to expand into federal waters, Hawaii aquaculture entrepreneurs could create food security for the islands, and become an important economic engine for the State of Hawaii. Farmed seafood already meets one third of the world’s demand. Globally it is a $100 Billion industry dominated by China. But farmed seafood production must double within the next twenty years or ocean resources will be depleted, according the United Nations Food Agriculture Organization.
We have already seen the effects of overfishing of Blue Fin tuna in the Atlantic and Big Eye tuna in the western Pacific oceans as well as a number of other species. Increased demand for seafood protein is decimating wild stocks and the carbon footprint and cost of hunting down seafood to meet this demand is not sustainable. Famed ocean scientists Jacques Cousteau implored the world to “learn how to farm the ocean as we farm the land” back in 1983. Though industrialized terrestrial farming has its problems, it has still been able to feed a hungry world. The last place on earth where we still behave like hunters and gatherers is the ocean, the most critical resource of our planet.
The Pacific Ocean is 65 million square miles and an average depth of 15,000 feet. Devoting a small percentage of this vast resource to open ocean fish farming may be the world’s best chance to protect the ocean and its inhabitants before it is too late. Some scientists have speculated that most of the important seafood species will be wiped out by 2048 and that the ocean’s maximum sustainable yield has already been surpassed. Fish farming detractors however like to complain of pollution and that low value fish stocks are being depleted in order to provide feed for high value stocks such as tuna. The fact is that aquaculture is highly efficient in terms of food conversion compared to wild seafood and even farm-raised animals. It takes less than 42 pounds of wild fish to create 10 pounds of farmed marine fish. In the wild, it takes 1000 pounds of wild fish to create 10 pounds of wild marine carnivore fish. Wild fish that eat fish that have consumed other fish, multiplies the effect on the food conversion ratio. Since farmed fish are fed fish from the lowest level of the troposphere the impact is significantly reduced. (This according to a study done by Seafood for the Future at the Pacific Aquarium). The problem of by-catch is not even factored into this equation. For every 3.7 million pounds of targeted fish taken from the ocean 1 million pounds of non-targeted fish are simply thrown overboard and wasted.
Fish meal is a source of food for a variety of other forms of farm raised protein including chicken and pigs, which have even higher food conversion ratios than marine fish and require large amounts of fresh water, something that is not needed in open ocean fish farming. When done in deeper ocean waters, the nutrients in effluent from farms are quickly mineralized and absorbed by plankton and algae contributing to the health of the ocean. Fish poop also contains calcium carbonate that helps reduce the impact of dissolved CO2 in the ocean.
Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc. was founded in 2006 as a Delaware C corporation by Bill Spencer its CEO and Paul Troy, Ph.D. a University of Hawaii trained oceanographer and the company’s Chief Technology Director. The company has an active board of advisors that includes world-renowned ocean scientists. The company will focus its fish farming efforts on the production of Yellow Fin and Big Eye tunas known as Ahi in Hawaii. Its tuna, raised in Hawaiian waters will be distinguished in the marketplace as “King Ahi”. The company expects to have its first patent pending fish farming Oceansphere deployed by 2013.