Feeding a World Hungry for Fish
by Bill Spencer, President Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc http://www.hioceanictech.com/
A highly funded, Washington, DC lobby organization, Food and Water Watch (FWW), is mounting a frontal attack on Hawaii State policy that supports open ocean mariculture. They have rallied a motley crew of rag tag environmental groups, and paid many of them to attack a growing sector of our economy that is on the verge of showing the world a way to produce seafood that is environmentally responsible. This group of activists are disseminating misleading information that paints a picture of Hawaii's small ocean farming businesses as harbingers of huge factory fish farms that pollute our ocean with horrible chemicals, antibiotics and fish poop. Food and Water Watch purports a host of problems with mariculture even though the industry is in its infancy in Hawaii, and none of their claims can be proven, only imagined by creative writers and spin doctors. The opportunity for a company to grow fish in Hawaiian territorial waters has been a matter of law for 10 years. It has been seen as a potential economic engine that could put fishermen back to work, create thousands of jobs and even new businesses in support of the effort.
Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. with a regulatory infrastructure that allows open ocean fish farming in State territorial waters. The regulatory framework a company must pass through in order to obtain the permits needed to operate is extensive, time consuming and costly. An Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement must be done that analyzes 12 possible impacts, a Cultural Impact Assessment must be done that assesses impacts on landowners, cultural practitioners and historical practices. This process is subject to extensive public review, scrutiny, question and response. Once accepted by the State, the EA/EIS is used as the basis for a Conservation District Use Permit, administered by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. The permit can be granted with conditions that prescribe a long list of what an operator can and cannot do. Current permits do not permit the use of antibiotics or noxious chemicals as asserted by the activists. Additional permits include an Army Corp of Engineers Section 10 permit, a Coastal Zone Management permit that assures compliance with all state and federal laws and a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.
Despite this methodical process, Food and Water Watch followed blindly by their local counterparts continues to assert arguments against open ocean mariculture for which no existing data can confirm. In order to achieve their objective they have paid "outreach consultants" in Hawaii to carry their message. They have paid supposed "native Hawaiians" to claim their cultural practices have been impinged upon or that they are being denied access to practice their gathering rights. Emboldened by their success with killing the Superferry, these local activists are now swooning with the opportunity to bring down another economic engine for Hawaii. And they can use D.C. lobbyist money to help them.
So why is FWW investing so much money and effort to stop aquaculture in Hawaii? Since Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. with a permitting process in place it is being reviewed by the Federal government as a model for how open ocean mariculture can be regulated in the U.S. federal waters. This is the main reason FWW is attacking the industry here. If they can stop open ocean aquaculture in Hawaii they can stop it in the rest of the U.S.
America's seafood industry is in peril. Due to rising costs of operation, depleted fisheries and foreign competition, hundreds of thousands of fishery jobs have been lost. Even land based aquaculture operations have been effected because the U.S. simply cannot compete with foreign labor costs. Aquaculture is already a $100 billion industry dominated by Asia. The U.S. imports 85 percent of the seafood we consume and half of that is foreign aquaculture product. Because of poor water conditions in developing countries where much of this product is grown, shipment upon shipment is rejected by the U.S. FDA. But lack of inspection assures that some tainted product continues to get through. The U.S. has given away our fishing industry to foreign countries in exchange for a less expensive product. With any other industry this would be a national security issue.
Hawaii stands at the forefront of this promising new way to produce seafood where seafood normally comes from, the open ocean. Fish poop is naturally mineralized by massive amounts of ocean water, constant currents and temperatures creating a clean healthy environment for the fish to grow in. As the world consumes more and more fish, the ocean is simply becoming tapped out. As Jacques Cousteau said in 1973, we must learn to farm the ocean as we farm the land. Hawaii is already the leader in this field. It is an imperative that we do this to help feed ourselves and a growing world hungry for fish.
“Oceanspheres” for open ocean fish farming proposed by Hawaii Oceanic. More: http://www.hioceanictech.com/