COURTESY MAUI FRESH FISH LLC
Opakapaka is raised at Maui Fresh Fish LLC, which uses "open ocean aquaculture" to produce its fish.
Fish farm plans irk Lanai anglers
Pens for opakapaka would be anchored about 30 feet deep
WAILUKU » A new aquaculture business wants to raise fish in open ocean off the leeward side of Lanai.
But some Lanai fishermen say they're opposed to it because it's located in their main fishing area.
"We don't want it," said fisherman Allen Kaiaokamalie. "It's our best fishing grounds."
Maui Fresh Fish LLC is developing a hatchery for opakapaka on coastal land at Kahakuloa in north Maui and wants to transfer the stock to aquaculture pens off Lanai where they can grow to adult size.
Fishing for opakapaka, a popular fish that has become increasingly scarce, has been banned in Hawaiian waters for seven months starting in mid-April.
Ed Cichon, a co-founder and managing member of Maui Fresh Fish, said fishermen have been opposed to locating the aquaculture farm a half mile off the south shore of Lanai and his business has formed a working group to discuss their concerns and see if a site there or elsewhere can be found.
"We want to work with them," Cichon said. "We don't want to appear to be one of those companies that tell people what to do. ... We feel we can do a lot of good for the people of Hawaii and for the people of Lanai."
Cichon said the site would be located in humpback whale sanctuary waters and Maui Fresh Fish is also having talks with officials of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Cichon said the business is in its early stages and is holding public meetings as part of its development of an environmental assessment, before applying to the state for an ocean lease.
He said the business plans to lease some 80.5 acres of ocean land and raise opakapaka in 7,000-cubic-meter sphere-shaped pens about 30 feet below the surface.
The pens, 80 feet in diameter, would be anchored to the bottom and made of vinyl-coated galvanized steel mesh, impenetrable by sharks and not harmful to seals or dolphins, he said.
Cichon said a couple of similar ventures have been done in Hawaii, including Kona Blue Water Farms, but Maui Fresh Fish was the first commercial attempt to raise opakapaka.
He said starting the business would require an anticipated investment of $5 million.
Kaiokamalie said Lanai fishermen and divers have small boats that can only be used on the leeward side, where there is less wind and current.
Ron McOmber, a Lanai diver, said he's also seen humpback whales.
"We have a pile of humpbacks there," he said.