Amid alarming reports of declining fish stocks worldwide, a Big Island business provides a reason for hope. Kona Blue fishery has devised a way to give us mouth-watering Hawaiian yellowtail without depleting the ocean. Founded in 2001, Kona Blue raises Kona Kampachi from eggs on shore and then transports the juveniles to large cages set in the open ocean. The company sustains its operations by restocking its hatchery with fresh eggs harvested from the offshore cages.
It sounds simple, but it’s far from it. Kona Blue is the first fishery in the United States to run a totally sustainable operation. Competing hatcheries still stock their open-ocean nets by catching juvenile fish. That method can deplete wild fish stocks and harm the surrounding ecosystem, but it is used because of the difficulty of breeding deep-sea fish.
Kona Kampachi is grown in large cages made of galvanized steel and covered with nets made of Dyneema, a material used in bulletproof vests. The cages, called sea stations, are located a half-mile off Keahole Point and are submerged 30 feet below the ocean’s surface to protect the fish from storms, ocean swells and boats.
Each sea station is raised and lowered by taking air into and releasing it from the central column.
The fish are transported to one of the six sea stations six weeks after hatching on shore. There, they are raised for an additional eight to 10 months, until they are ready to harvest at three to five pounds. Each station holds 50,000 fish.
The fish are harvested year-round, based on orders received, to enhance freshness. By 2008, Kona Blue expects to be harvesting over 400,000 fish each year and generating more than $5 million in annual sales.