A company growing food fish in giant pens off the North Kona coast proposes to more than double its operation by increasing the number and size of its pens.
In a draft environmental assessment published Tuesday by the state Department of Health Office of Environmental Quality Control, the company, Blue Ocean Mariculture LLC, asserts that extensive monitoring of water quality during eight years at the current farm has shown no significant environmental impact, and expansion is not expected to have a significant environmental impact either.
Blue Ocean seeks to increase its maximum growing volume from 24,000 cubic meters to 64,000 cubic meters by increasing the allowable pens from six to eight, and increasing the maximum size of individual pens from 7,000 cubic meters to 8,000 cubic meters. The farm site is just offshore from the Kona International Airport off Unualoha Point.
The existing permits allow cultivation of mahimahi; kahala, or almaco jack and amberjack, moi, or Pacific threadfin; and ulua, or giant trevally. Currently, only kampachi and moi are being produced.
The expansion would enable an increase in fish production from 450 tons to approximately 1,100 tons per year by 2017, according to the draft EA. The company is not asking to expand beyond its current 90-acre mariculture lease.
The public has until Aug. 7 to comment on the proposal by sending comments to the applicant — Blue Ocean Mariculture LLC, 74-429 Kealakehe Parkway, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 — and the approving agency — Department of Land and Natural Resources, Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, P.O. Box 621, Honolulu, HI 96809.
The draft EA can be viewed at oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Hawaii/2010s/2014-07-08-HA-5E-DEA-Capacity-Increase-at-Blue-Ocean-Mariculture-Facility.pdf.
Blue Ocean Mariculture acquired Kona Blue Water Farms’ lease to operate four offshore fish pens and an onshore hatchery in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
A company spokeswoman could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday. But letters the company provided from suppliers, fellow business ventures and customers had only good things to say about Blue Ocean and its operation.
“The farm has been in operation since 2005, and the company has demonstrated the ability to raise a great fish while maintaining the pristine environment,” said Gerald Cysewski, chief science officer for Cyanotech, which has a facility just onshore from Blue Ocean at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. “Based on Blue Ocean’s assessment of their projected production and the environment surrounding their farm site, it seems that the quality of waters off of Kona will be maintained, even after increasing their production.”
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