Ono for an Oyster?Posted by Keli'i Kotubetey on May 27, 2013
On May 23rd 2013, the Hawaii Department of Health made a landmark announcement that the first shellfish farm 26 years has received the necessary permits to operate, grow, and sell shellfish in Hawaii. It has been nearly 3 decades since a shellfish farm has been authorized to operate and the last local shellfish farm closed in 1999.
This is great news for farms and consumers in Hawai’i as 100% of the shellfish eaten in Hawaii since 1999 has been imported. Green-lipped mussels from New Zealand, Pacific oysters from Washington, Miyagi oysters from Japan, Manila Clams from the Phillipines – these recognizable and delicious shellfish are common place here in Hawaii thanks to worldwide distribution channels but none were raised in Hawaii. That may change soon.
Thanks in large part to efforts by policy makers at the State Department of Health and researchers at University of Hawaii at Hilo, several fishponds on Oahu and Moloka’i and a shrimp farm on Kaua’i have been conducting the necessary research to see if Hawaii’s waters can again support a shellfish industry. For over 5 years, groups around the state have been growing oysters and clams, measuring water quality, assessing fresh water inputs, and trying to understand the public health aspects of eating shellfish. Shellfish are filter feeders and accumulate nutrients, plankton, pollutants, toxins, bacteria, and anything else floating in the water. So we have to make sure they are clean before people eat them.
In a nutshell, all of the hard work has led to this point where Sunrise Farms on Kaua’i has been approved and will soon be selling clams and osyters for consumption in Hawai’i and beyond. Both Moli’i Fishpond (owned and operated by Kualoa Ranch) and He’eia Fishpond are very close to being approved as well. And the hope is that more farms and fishponds will gain approval to supply Hawaii’s appetite for shellfish from a locally-grown source.