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Controversy over aquaculture farm project

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By Kristen Consillio

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HONOLULU (KITV) – Hawaii-based Ocean Era hopes to start operating a $ 5 million plus aquaculture farm next year.

Walter Ritte, the founder of ‘Aina Momona, an indigenous Hawaiian group advocating for environmental sustainability and food security, believes the commercial project will have negative impacts on the ocean, unlike traditional loko i’a, or fish ponds. .

“We are really worried about all the dangers of these people raising fish, not just to feed people, but for profit,” Ritte said.

Ritte, who lives in Molokai, says he fears the disease is a major problem on an overcrowded fish farm, leading to the use of antibiotics that could harm other fish in the sea.

“Whereas in a fish pond we have, to fight disease, we have predators… and predators act like doctors, they prey on weaker animals and they don’t care about the disease of those animals. , they take them out so our pond becomes disease free in a natural way, ”he said.

Ritte also argues that the fish produced on the farm will not be affordable for locals. He believes that restoring traditional fish ponds is the best way to develop the Hawaiian seafood industry, while protecting natural resources.

“In order for us to know what our future will be, we have to trust what our ancestors did for thousands of years,” he said.

But Neil Sims, CEO of Ocean Era, says it’s all about food security and sustainability.

“We have to remember that most of the seafood we eat here in Hawaii is imported, that we have to learn how to grow our own seafood here. We can’t keep taking from the ocean all the time, ”he said.

He says the project aims to produce native species that will be more attractive to the local market, such as me, nenue and another species of limu, or algae, to help feed the fish.

“Nenue is a highly prized fish in Hawaiian and Pacific Island cultures, it’s the people who really appreciate this fish but most haoles don’t like it,” Sims said. “Nenue is not a fish that the rich will buy. It tastes like limu, it tastes like the ocean, and the rich want fish that tastes like chicken.

Sims says he doesn’t see his project as conflicting with traditional fish ponds because it serves the same purpose.

In fact, he says Ocean Era is supporting the revitalization of loko i’a and donating nenue to the fish ponds on the Big Island and O’ahu and will eventually do the same on Molokai.

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