US - Kona Blue Water Farms could become a model for developing a sustainable U.S. aquaculture industry.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service visited the company's offshore fish farm on the Big Island last week, an event that coincided with the federal agencies' promotion of a bill in Congress that would encourage the development of the industry while also establishing environmental standards.
"We're here to see and learn," said William Hogarth, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, in a news release. "Kona Blue is pioneering open ocean aquaculture, and we feel that their infrastructure and commitment to environmental sustainability can be replicated in federal waters offshore."
At a time of heightened food safety concerns, the United States imports more than 40 percent of its seafood from aquaculture farms located overseas, according to the release.
"Developing an emerging aquaculture industry in U.S. waters is key to ensuring a safe supply of healthful seafood grown in a sustainable manner," Hogarth said.
The bill has met some resistance from environmental groups concerned about the use of fish products in feedstock, about the potential for escape and about the impact of effluent water.
The company wants to work on solutions to those issues, said Neil Anthony Sims, president of Kona Blue and a founding board member of the Ocean Stewards Institute, an aquaculture trade organization formed earlier this year.
"We just need the opportunity and the incentive to work toward sustainable solutions," Sims said in the news release. "Federal legislation can provide that."
Kona Blue started growing Kona Kampachi, a Hawaiian yellowtail fish, in the open ocean six years ago.