Hawaii passes aquaculture legislation


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 28, 2011

The Hawaii Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association (HAAA) on Thursday commended Gov. Neil Abercrombie for signing a bill into law that will “broaden Hawaii’s rigorous leasing process” by expanding the life of leases from 35 years to 65 years.

“The permit and lease process is incredibly thorough, taking several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. It affords the state with multiple safeguards that protect the ocean and the public. Companies must demonstrate a sincere commitment to environmental responsibility to obtain necessary permits, so not just anyone can be part of this industry,” said Bill Spencer, president of Hawaii Oceanic Technology, which was recently granted a lease to farm yellowfin tuna off the coast of Hawaii Island.

Added Ron Weidenbach, president of HAAA: “Signing SB 1511 shows the state is firmly behind aquaculture to diversify and expand its economy on all islands. The bill is consistent with the governor’s goal of greater food security for Hawaii that is nurtured by growing sustainable industries compatible with our culture and our pristine environment.”

Initially, Abercrombie put SB 1511 on hold to give him and his staff more time to study the measure, particularly the environmental impacts of open-ocean aquaculture. He even considered vetoing it. According to HAAA, Washington, D.C.-based environmental NGO Food & Water Watch (F&WW) and its local affiliate, Pono Aquaculture (PA), tried to kill the bill via “misinformation and mass-form e-mails.”

But Abercrombie ended up signing the legislation on 14 July, saying he “has always been supportive of aquaculture and understands the need for long-term leases for financing purposes.” The HAAA also cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new national marine aquaculture policy, unveiled in early June, as evidence that support for open-ocean aquaculture is growing.

In a letter to the editor to Hawaii’s Independent Forum, F&WW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said: “Hawaii has failed to develop any state policy on ocean factory fish farming, conduct a cumulative study on the impacts of an expanded industry, or even set clear standards for this type of fish farming. The governor should have stuck with his original assessment of the bill. He was correct in stating that the definition of aquaculture was too broad.”

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