Mexico-Hawaiʻi aquaculture project

two women in boat

Olga Zamudio, UAS, and Maria Haws, UH Hilo, examining mangrove oysters in Nayarit

Mexico and Hawaiʻi share common opportunities and challenges in developing their shellfish culture industries. A collaboration between institutions in the two regions is providing research and development that generates opportunities for economic development, joint student training and academic exchanges.

The collaboration involves the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center
(PACRC), the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa (UAS) and scientists at Louisiana State and Ohio State Universities. It is sponsored by the Aquaculture and Fisheries Collaborative Research Support Program and receives funding from USAID.

The project has focused on four initiatives since 2005.

Developing native species of bivalve shellfish

PACRC and UAS have both established shellfish hatcheries, which are used for research, student training and supplying local producers.

In Mexico, the producers are women’s and fishermen’ cooperatives in rural areas.

In Hawaiʻi, PACRC has worked with operators of Hawaiian fishponds to demonstrate the feasibility of oyster culture here.

Improving aquaculture sanitation

group of me standing outdoors

Armando Garcia in the field

In Mexico, best management practices were developed and training provided to shellfish farmers, many of them women, in how to grow and handle shellfish to reduce the risk of food-born diseases.

In Hawaiʻi, research on water quality in Hawaiian fishponds and collaborative work with the Department of Health is opening the door to developing an oyster farming industry in the islands.

Hawaiʻi is the only U.S. state where it is illegal to sell locally-grown oysters because of gaps in the state sanitation plan. Research has shown that the water in the target fish ponds is of sufficiently good quality that shellfish grown there will be safe to eat.

Developing native fish species for aquaculture

fish holding hands

Chame is being explored as an aquaculture fish

In Mexico UH Hilo researchers are working with Mexican scientist to develop a new fish species, called the chame, for aquaculture. The fish grows rapidly. It is a detritivore, which means it can be grown without using expensive fish feeds.

Once the life cycle is closed, farmers can expand culture of this fish along the entire Pacific Coast of Latin America.

This species is closely related to the Hawaiian species of gobies, so biological information gained from this research can help inform management and conservation efforts in Hawaiʻi.

Training students

group of young people standing outside

UH Hilo student hatchery assistants

In an important part of the Human Health and Aquaculture Project, 55 students have obtained valuable job experience with project funding. Thirty-three of the students have finished undergraduate or graduate degrees with project funding; 20 of them are UH Hilo students.

Gender equality is an important parameter in the project. To date, women represent 45 percent of the students obtaining training in science and aquaculture fields.

Project collaborators

Project collaborators include