Kona Blue to spawn kampachi in Mexico


POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kona Blue Water Farms, an aquaculture company, is planning to spawn its kampachi fish in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Mexico.

Kona Blue raises Hawaiian yellowtail in open-ocean pens off the Kona Coast, which is marketed and sold as a sustainable, sashimi-grade fish to high-end restaurants and stores in both Hawaii and the mainland.

Co-founder and President Neil Anthony Sims said Kona Blue has been looking for expansion opportunities for some time. Mexico was ideal, he said, with its warm waters close to the U.S. market.

“;We want to grow our fish in the cleanest, deepest water that we can,”; said Sims, “;removed from the risks of runoffs or other things that might impact fish health and quality.”;

Sims said that producing the fish in the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California, would also reduce the company's carbon footprint. Instead of flying the fish from Hawaii, Kona Blue can transport its fish by truck from Mexico to California.

Kona Blue got its start with the help of the state's high-tech tax credit in 2001 at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Big Island.

It had its first harvest from a marine hatchery off the Kona coast in 2005, and has since grown exponentially.

At its inception, Kona Blue only produced about 3,000 pounds of whole fish a week. Today, it produces an average of 20,000 pounds of fish a week.

Restaurant clients include the prestigious French Laundry in Napa Valley, California's wine country, Farallon in San Francisco, as well as Roy's Restaurants, Nobu, Alan Wong's and the Halekulani's La Mer in Hawaii.

Retail clients have also included Safeway, Costco and KTA Superstores, and Bristol Farms in southern California.

Last year, Kona Blue moved its administrative offices to San Francisco to position company executives closer to potential investors in major markets.

But Sims dismissed any ideas that the company might eventually move from Hawaii.

“;I'm still here in Kona,”; he said. “;We see Kona as being a very important part of the equation of pushing the sustainability quotient here.”;

  The Mexico hatchery, which is expected to reap its first harvest in a year, could boost production fivefold by 2012. Sims said Kona Blue plans to start with four cages, and eventually increase the number to 12.

Kona Blue currently grows the fish in eight submersible cages about a half-mile offshore of the Kona Coast in waters that are more than 200 feet deep.