Natural Foods Merchandiser

Tuna farm to be built off coast of Hawaii

A Honolulu company plans to build the nation’s first tuna farm off the Big Island in Hawaii. Hawaii Oceanic Technology said it will build an environmentally friendly open-ocean farm to raise bigeye tuna, which is used for sushi and sashimi.

The company won approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to install three large underwater cages for the tuna.

Hawaii Oceanic plans to artificially hatch bigeye tuna at a University of Hawaii lab and then take the fish to large ocean pens where they will grow until they reach 100 pounds. The company said the cages will be in a part of the ocean that is 1,300 feet deep, allowing currents to sweep away fish waste and uneaten food, preventing pollution, according to the Associated Press. The company also said it will avoid disease problems common at some other fish farms because the fish won’t be crowded into the large cages.

Critics said they were concerned that diseased farm fish would escape and contaminate wild stocks and wondered where Hawaii Oceanic would get its fish feed.

The company said it would purchase feed made from sustainably harvested fish and that it won’t feed its tuna antibiotics.

Gavin Gibbons, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Fisheries Institute, said that “as an idea, (the plan for the farm) sounds good. A lot of problems with sustainability have come out of the high-end sushi market, primarily Mediterranean bluefin tuna.”

He said that while “certain stocks of bigeye do have increased pressure on them, they are nowhere remotely close to the overfished bluefin.”

Gibbons said the same concerns about problems with farmed fish such as tilapia, shrimp and salmon don’t apply to the bigeye tuna. “They’re large so there’s not a concern with sick fish getting out (of the cages). They’re very big, they’re highly migratory and they’re predatory. The physical plant is very different.”

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