News of Note: On Hawaii's Ornamental Aquaculture Industry

By Ray Kosaka, HAS (reprinted from May 1998 I'A O HAWAI'I)


Recently, Harry Ako Ph.D., Biochemistry of the Dept. of Environmental Biochemistry, University of Hawaii and Clyde S. Tamaru, Ph.D., Aquaculture Specialist, of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, presented a summary of their efforts to support the freshwater ornamental fish aquaculture to the Industry Advisory Committee of the Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, (CTSA) of which your president is a member. Excerpts from their remarks are as follows:


1. The freshwater ornamental industry has grown form nothing to $250,000 in export income this past year and due to the more aggressive growth of the rural farmers and expansion of urban growers, it is projected that Hawaii will top the $1 million mark in 1998.


2. From studies of Hawaiian wholesalers price sheets, it appears that live bearers are well represented in the industry however more work must be done on the various species of egglayers for the market. The authors feel a need to work on this in balance and their field day on rotifer culture is an example of their efforts.


3. The industry has several components. One is the rural farmer who favors culture in intensive systems. These are people who culture fish in CTSA intensive culture tanks of approx. 6,000 gallons each. A middle group is the beginning rural farmer. This group should be making a large impact in the near future. Another component consists of urban growers who call themselves hobbyists. In the last year this group has exported 50% of the dollar value of the aquacultured ornamental fish coming from Hawaii.


4. Hawaii has always relied on a technological edge because we cannot compete with cheap labor, land, or natural resources of Singapore, Florida or other areas. Thus Hawaii farmers are rapidly diversifying into higher value and niche species. In this light, the authors will be working on recirculation technology and on density issues, which should benefit all components (farmers.)


5. This work group presented two papers at the World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Seattle this past year. These related to the physical and biological characteristics of CTSA-style intensive culture modules. The group also wrote three how-to manuals which interestingly, Florida has been asking for. In 1998 the group presented two papers at the Las Vegas meeting of the World Aquaculture Society. One paper was on methods to determine feed palatability and the other was on feeding trials with guppies and angelfish. The papers played to standing room only audiences.


6. The freshwater group is aggressive and the authors try to respond to grower problems before they are formalized in grand proposals. In 1997, they started work on sex ratio determination in swordtails. Initial studies show that both genetic and environmental components may be factors in this determination . . . genetics, density, pH, temperature, are all being considered.

Another issue addressed is the shipping problem. The work group considered this a technology transfer issue and began a workshop series around the state and is writing a manual on shipping.