Offshore Aquaculture potentially leading the way in sustainable seafood

In the past, nearshore pens have set aquaculture up for negative press.  Fortunately, aquaculture has developed significantly in the last 30 years.  It has been proven that net pens located in adequate current and depth do not pose a significant environmental risk and are actually well received by the local populations because of their Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) characteristics.  One of the best examples of this happening is Blue Ocean Mariculture.  Located roughly half a mile offshore off the Kailua-Kona this Kampachi farming operation was recently awarded the Aquaculture Stewardship Council’s certification, making it the first finfish farm in the United States to get the certification.  This certification is based off of a model for environmental sustainability and social responsibility.  Not only is the company held accountable for the environmental protection, but also focuses on ensuring that the company is beneficial to its employees and surrounding communities.  

Blue Ocean Maricuture consists of six pens anchored in approximately 82 feet of water.  Each of the pens house between 100,000 and 130,000 Almaco Jack branded as Hawaiian Kampachi.  This operation is supported by a hatchery located in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park near the Kona Airport.  Each fish roughly takes 15 months to reach market size the initial 3 months are spent at the hatchery prior to being transported to the offshore pens.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council was first created in 2010 jointly by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative.  The certification process itself includes a thorough audit by an independent assessor focusing on a wide array of sustainability metrics, such as water quality, fish escapes, feed sources, etc.  In addition, there are standards set to ensure that the farm is following fair labor practices and engaging positively with the local community.

Blue Ocean Mariculture is looking to expand both in size as well as by vertically integrating the processing stage of production.  This expansion will be well received by Hawaii because the growth of the aquaculture industry has boosted the Hawaiian economy, which has recently struggled because of the Covid-19 pandemics travel restrictions.  Travel makes up a large portion of the Hawaiian economy and has had a significant negative impact, while aquaculture has seen a 6% increase in sales over the last year from the $83.2 million dollars in 2019.

Sources:

Certifying environmentally and socially responsible seafood


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