By CHELSEA JENSEN
Consumer advocacy group Food and Water Watch is taking its protest over the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision to award a permit to Kampachi Farms for a floating aquaculture project to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In filing the appeal, Food and Water Watch and KAHEA, Ka (the) Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, are requesting the Ninth Circuit review the validity of Honolulu U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway’s late April decision affirming the permit’s granting by the service, which falls under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Mitch Jones, Food and Water Watch Fish Program director.
“We hope when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals looks at the law and the facts of the case, they’ll agree with our initial position,” said Jones, who was unable to provide a copy of the lawsuit as of press time Friday. “The law and the facts in the case support our case that the permit issued for the project was not keeping with the intent of the law.”
The permit being protested by the organization allowed Kampachi Farms to test a floating fish pen off Hawaii Island’s western coast. The suit claims the federal government did not have the authority to grant the permit for the Vellela project and the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to adequately assess the project’s environmental impacts. Jones added the service also didn’t acquire authorization from a local regional fishery board for the permit.
Kampachi Farms Co-CEO Neil Sims said Friday afternoon he hadn’t seen the lawsuit. He added that the Velella aquaculture project was a success and proved “we can grow really healthy fish that can thrive in their natural environment miles off-shore with no measurable impact whatsoever on the ocean ecosystem.”
Kampachi Farms applied for and received the research permit in July 2011 under the name Kona Blue Water Farms. Kona Blue Water Farms dissolved in late 2011 and Sims, along with another partner, founded Kampachi Farms, an aquaculture technology research company.
“This lawsuit is a total waste of tax payer money. This project was already completed months ago and NOAA has the authority to issue this research permit — it’s only a research permit and it was determined by the federal courts that under existing legislation NOAA can do this,” Sims said. “It’s a real shame that Food and Water Watch can’t focus on the real environmental problems out there.”
The Food and Water Watch, established in 2005, is a national, nongovernmental consumer rights group that works to ensure the food, water and fish Americans consume is safe, accessible and sustainable.
While the Velella aquaculture project may be complete and an appeal can’t change that, Jones said Food and Water Watch hopes a ruling in their favor will clarify requirements for all future permits considered or granted under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery, Conservation and Management Act.
“It’s not just about this particular instance, it’s about the law and how it’s interpreted,” he explained. The appeal could “establish the actual meaning of the federal law.”
Sims’ Kampachi Farms and the former Kona Blue Water Farms he helped co-found in the early 2000s, differ from Blue Ocean Mariculture, which acquired Kona Blue Water Farms’ lease to operate four offshore fish pens and an onshore hatchery in 2010 and 2011, respectively, said Todd Madsen, Blue Ocean Mariculture president. Madsen said the company did not purchase the business, only the site lease and facility.
Blue Ocean Mariculture anticipates it will produce 500 tons of almaco jack, also known as kahala or Kampachi, this year that will be available to consumers in Hawaii, the mainland U.S. and Singapore, Madsen said. It currently operates four pens within a 90-acre ocean parcel off the Kona Coast.
Email Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.