Helping Hawaii shellfish

HILO — Aquaculture in Hawaii just got a $149,972 infusion for research and industry support, and it’s being used to develop a way for small businesses and individuals to get a piece of the shellfish industry.

The project is being piloted on Hilo, according to Maria Haws, director, Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, which is heading up the effort, along with funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

“Kauai already has something going with Kauai Shrimp, and it’s one of the best (shellfish businesses) in the state,” Haws said. “We’re starting in Hilo for now, because it’s in our own back yard, but hopefully what we’re creating is a state-wide model.”

The money will be used for connecting Hawaii’s general population with the tools to invest into aquaculture, particularly in marine aquaculture — bringing more jobs to the people and creating more locally-sourced seafood options.

“The problem we have in this state is that it’s extremely difficult to do any marine aquaculture,” Haws said. “Most regular people aren’t going to do it. We import almost all of our seafood, so Hawaii’s got to figure that out as well.”

In addition to developing a commercial oyster farm in Hilo Bay, the initiative also has the goal of creating a land-based fattening system for oysters.

“This is loosely based on other systems,” Haws said. “We will be working with Dr. Chris Langdon of OSU to develop some simple carbohydrate based feeds to speed up the fattening system.”

The nearly $150,000 came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant, which awarded a total of $9.3 million for 32 projects nationwide to advance the development of a sustainable marine and coastal aquaculture industry in the U.S.

The grants were awarded through two aquaculture funding competitions: Integrated Projects to Increase Aquaculture Production competition and the Addressing Impediments to Aquaculture Opportunities competitions.

The goal of both competitions was to help spur the development and growth of shellfish, finfish and seaweed aquaculture business.

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