The demand worldwide for tuna is at an all-time high, which is why populations of this fish are at all-time low. Schools of large predator fish have declined worldwide by two-thirds and the Pacific Bluefin, specifically, is down 96 percent since the early 1900s, when catch records were kept.
Farming fish may be one way to address these declines — although it comes with the same kind of problems that any kind of factory farming brings to an ecosystem, such as pollution, parasites and disease.
A Hawaiian company says they have a more sustainable way. Hawaii Oceanic Technology has plans to construct huge spheres — 180 feet wide — that will be submerged 60 feet below the surface off the North Kohala coast of Hawaii Island and are capable of containing 1,000 tons of tuna. Above is an illustration. Can you find the diver?
The company has leased 247 acres of ocean, an area large enough to support 12 so-called Oceanspheres, which could yield as much as 24,000 tons of seafood a year.
In a statement, the company’s CEO Bill Spencer said that fish raised in these submerged farms will start as eggs, instead of as immature wild fish, typical on other fish farms. Growth to adulthood will take about 18 months. During that time, a network of sensors on the spheres will provide data on water quality, as requested by the Environmental Protection Agency and a series of thrusters will keep the spheres stationary. The fish inside will be fed by an automated feeding system.
But at least 1,700 people signed a petition opposing the farm.
“The bottom line is the benefit does not outweigh the risks, no matter what kind of fish they plan to grow,” Diane Kanealii of the Kailapa Community Association in Kawaihae told West Hawaii today in an email.
Residents say that the farm is being installed in an area known to support growing wild fish populations and that the waste pollution from the farm would damage the ecosystem.
But so far, the petition has not stopped progress. One sphere will be deployed in 2016 and tested for six month before others will be added. Spencer said he plans to expand the technology into the global market to meet worldwide demand for seafood.
“The deep ocean is the only place left to produce enough seafood naturally to feed the world efficiently, economically and with minimal environmental impact,” Spencer said.
Credit: Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc.