Posted on: November 4, 2011

Pacific Whale Foundation to Host Free Panel Discussion: “Pole or Plane? Sustainable Seafood in Hawai'i”

75% of all seafood consumed in Hawai'i is flown or shipped here from the U.S. Mainland or other countries, reports the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. Is it possible to achieve a higher degree of sustainability in Hawaii on our seafood consumption? What are capabilities of our local fisheries -- and can they meet the demand of our residents and visitors?

To help answer those questions, Pacific Whale Foundation will host a  panel discussion titled "Pole or Plane? Sustainable Seafood in Hawai'i" on Thursday, November 17 from 6;00 pm to 7:30 pm at its Discovery Center in Ma'alaea. The evening will help consumer learn to  rate the sustainability of the seafood available to them, and  to find out about plans for a fish farming operation off Maui’s coast. The presentation is free and open to all.

The presenters will include Sheila Bowman, Senior Manager of Outreach and Education, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program; Donn Wakamatsu of Whole Foods; and Chad Yokouchi of Maui Fresh Fish (Maui's open ocean aquaculture project).

According to Sheila Bowman, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program works to broaden awareness of the links between the seafood on our plates and the health of our oceans as it helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that supports environmentally responsible fishing and fish farming practices. It’s a buying decision that can contribute directly to ocean health.

Since its debut in 1999, the Seafood Watch program has grown to include six regional pocket guides, with three Spanish-language options, featuring popular seafood found in different regions of the U.S. In 2008, a guide to sustainable sushi was introduced. Guides are updated every six months to reflect ongoing research, resulting in “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives” or items to “Avoid.”

In partnership with Pacific Whale Foundation, Maui Ocean Center and other zoos, aquariums and institutions across the U.S., the Monterey Bay Aquarium has put over 36.7 million Seafood Watch pocket guides in the hands of consumers; over nine million guides were included in the 2007 DVD release of the animated film Happy Feet. Thousands of guides are also downloaded each year from the aquarium’s website. A mobile version of the pocket guide is also available for mobile devices with Internet connection, in addition to the free application for the iPhone and iPod touch which has been downloaded by over 500,000 users.

Bowman notes that wiith the worldwide catch in decline, aquaculture (or fish farming) seeks to fill the gap. In the next year, for the first time, farming will likely overtake wild-caught fish as the leading source of our seafood. While fish farming can help ease pressure on wild fisheries, some aquaculture methods can have their own negative impact. One major concern is the amount of wild-caught fish required to feed carnivorous species of farmed fish, such as salmon and tuna.

Donn Wakamatsu of Whole Foods Market in Kahului will be speaking about efforts at Whole Foods to carry sustainable seafood. Whole Foods Market offers ecologically certified seafood with the "Fish Forever" label.which guarantees consumers that the labeled product was from a well-managed fishery and caught in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Chad Yokouchi of Maui Fresh Fish, LLC will discuss the current status of the large, state-of-the-art fish hatchery that his company is buildng on the north shore of Maui. He will also tell about the plan to  lease approximately 125 acres of ocean space located .8 nautical miles off the south shore of Lana'i. Their objective is to raise opakapaka from eggs at our hatchery and then grow them to market size in our state-of-the-art, 7,000 cubic meter Aquapod ™ net pens submerged in the sea.

"We've brought together these three speakers so that the public can look at their different perspectives, ask questions and get answers," says Merrill Kaufman. "We expect a lively and robust discussion on this topic that is of such importance to all of us in Hawai'i."

Questions for the panel may be submitted in advance by writing to merrillkaufman@pacificwhale.org.

Pacific Whale Foundation's Discovery Center is located off Route 30, Honoapiilani Highway at the Ma'alaea Harbor Shops, adjacent to Maui Ocean Center.  For information, please call the Education Department at Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 856-8322.