The post that disappeared

Posted by alanakahea at Jul 20, 2009 10:58 PM |
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From Alana:

Last Friday there was a community aquaculture meeting at the UH Law School. It was fourth of four presentations given by Christina Lizzi (Food and Water Watch, DC), Rob Parsons (Food and Water Watch Coordinator, Maui), and Kale Gumapac (Kanaka Council). The other three meetings were on the Big Island and Maui. Only about 10 people showed up to the one on O’ahu (granted, it was on short notice, and had limited publicity), but a lot of concerns were raised, and was apparent that people are not only curious about these sci-fi fish farms, but they are also concerned.  The meetings were informative about aquaculture, and the risks that come with it anywhere it the world, and also had a very cultural focus on Hawai’i.

Some of the environmental and legal issues brought up in discussion:

What state entity should preside over aquaculture?

Kona Blue has been meeting with Monsanto, the GMO company, for GMO soy in feed. 

How can wild fish in feed be reduced, while also eliminating GMO protein substitutes, like soy?

Kona Blue has plans to genetically engineer a stronger type of kahala fish. Escapes of GMO fish, or GMO fed fish could lead to terrible repercussions in the wild. 

Who holds ultimate title to leased aquaculture areas? In reality it is ceded land, and leases could be contested. 

Kona Blue is not paying fair market value on leased area (only ~$14,000 per year)

All feed is imported, and its content is not released. It could have preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, etc. 

Virtually all of ocean farmed fish would be exported from the islands. 

Permit requirements for onshore hatcheries? The impacts of the hatcheries may be as harmful as what happens in the ocean. 

Who would enforce buffer zones around larger ventures? DOCARE? Coast Guard?

Cultural issues brought up in discussion: 

Hukilau Foods, the company running the fish farm off of Ewa beach, takes advantage of the concept of the hukilau, which historically would benefit the entire ahupua’a by providing fish to everyone who helped. Hukilau Foods, however, exports the majority of their fish to the mainland. (Asking Hukilau Foods to share their bounty on harvest days would make a big statement)

Hawai’i open ocean aquaculture operations have a tendency to equate themselves with the loko i’a (native Hawaiian fish ponds). This is similar to comparing the TMT to native Hawaiian astronomy. It is fallacious, and the two could not be more different. The ancient fishponds were set up to be self-sustaining ecosystems. They were poly-culture systems that used barracuda, sea turtles, seaweed, predatory fish, and smaller fish like a checks and balances system. It did not have to constantly be monitored for disease, and the fish did not need to be fed. The ponds were also separate from the open ocean. 

In past generations the ocean was revered for its healing properties. Even when I was growing up I was taught to go in the ocean if I had a wound, but these days you are more likely to get staff infection than be healed. The ocean is changing, and not for the better. Adding an unknown amount of fish excrement to our waters could lead to a rise in “slime” which can lead to several health problems in humans. 

EIS’ fail to address most cultural concerns. How will sharks that are attracted to the cages be address? In 2005 Kona Blue killed a resident 16-foot tiger shark that many people felt was an ‘aumakua.

Obviously there are a lot of conflicting interests here regarding land and ocean use. We came to the conclusion that the best way to benefit our island community would be to use all the money that would have be given to aquaculture ventures, to instead  restore the loko i’a. If that happened, entire communities would reap the benefits, and not just a CEO and 20 employees of a company. Open ocean aquaculture has already proven itself to be a generally unprofitable business in Hawai’i– Kona Blue says it needs to expand or it will go out of business. Why not produce something locally, in a truly sustainable way, that would be for local people? The infrastructure for fishponds is already there, they just need a little makeover.

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