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The University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program received $149,972 to develop new opportunities in shellfish farming for Hawaiʻi and the U.S. affiliated Pacific Islands. It was among 18 Sea Grant programs around the country to receive funding from NOAA Sea Grant to advance the development of a sustainable marine and coastal aquaculture industry in the United States.

The 32 projects were funded a total of $9.3 million in federal grants, and will help spur the development and growth of shellfish, finfish and seaweed aquaculture businesses throughout the nation.

Maria Haws, director of the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, is leading the project. “It is well known that mariculture has tremendous potential to help Hawaiʻi become more self-sufficient in seafood, which would be very beneficial to our local residents,” she said. “However, opportunities to establish small farms are very limited compared to those on the mainland due to strict regulations and the high cost of starting a farm.”

Haws went on to explain how the project would help the state address this issue. “To lower barriers to oyster farming in nearshore waters, we will assess the feasibility of forming a cooperative or other employee-owned corporation,” she said. “A group of local individuals and small businesses will work with us to test this concept. In addition, we are working on developing land-based mariculture systems that could also be operated by community members or small businesses.”

Although the pilot project is based in Hilo, the results from the study will be instrumental in helping other island communities throughout the state to develop similar businesses.

Nationwide, all of the projects include public-private partnerships and will be led by university-based Sea Grant programs. With each project, every two federal dollars of funding is matched by non-federal funds, bringing the total investment in these research projects to $13.9 million.

—By Cindy Knapman

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