Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services Branch

Hawaii is an ideal location for aquaculture, the farming of plants and animals in water. From lush green mountains to sandy shores along the ocean, water abounds throughout Hawaii, providing a myriad of environments for raising seafood. Shrimp, abalone, seaweed, microalgae, tilapia, and various organisms for the aquarium trade are raised here.

The Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services (ALSS), a branch of the Animal Industry Division, generates diversified agriculture solutions for moving Hawaii towards greater food self-sufficiency, and fosters viable export industries.

ALSS provides a broad range of support to new and existing aquaculture and livestock businesses through planning and coordination, business counseling, and information dissemination efforts. ALSS offers assistance in:

  •       Starting a new business in Hawaii;
  •       Introducing best management practices and new technologies;
  •       Providing direct assistance with regulations and disease prevention;
  •       Assisting market development at home and abroad;
  •       Facilitating expansion of offshore aquaculture development on species, systems, and potential leases;
  •       Helping to secure resources such as leaseholds, water, and processing facilities required to maintain and promote the local production of aquaculture and livestock.

Hawaii is moving towards greater food self-sufficiency. Many new and exciting opportunities are emerging. In the following pages, you will learn more about our industries and how you can take advantage of these opportunities.

The following are common areas of interest:

  • Livestock Feed Development Program FY2017 

Act 221, SLH 2016 has provided funding to reimburse qualified feed developers for the costs of developing feed for sale to qualified producers between July 1, 2016 and April 15, 2017.  The total amount available for reimbursement is $950,000.
Note: The deadline for forms submittal is April 30, 2017.

For program details or questions, please see the linked documents or contact Liz Xu at 808.483.7104 or

Fact Sheet
Application Form
Producer’s Operating Statement Form


Liz J. Xu, MBA
Acting Manager
Dept. of Agriculture, Aquaculture & Livestock Support Services
State of Hawaii
Ph: 808.973.9626



Section 1:

Aquaculture in Hawaii

Aquaculture is the cultivation and harvesting of aquatic plants and animals in controlled environments. Farming the sea has long been a part of Hawaii’s rich oceanic heritage. Globally, the aquaculture industry has experienced explosive growth since the 1960s.  Numerous technological breakthroughs have made modern aquaculture profitable and environmentally sustainable.

Hawaii’s aquaculture industry consists of the Commercial Production Sector, which includes commercial farming of a wide variety of species, and the Research and Technology Transfer Sector, which includes service activities such as research, degree education, training, consulting and professional conferencing. Globally, there is a large and growing demand for Hawaii`s farmed seafood and aquaculture expertise.

Total Hawaii aquaculture sales in 2014 were valued at $78.2 million, setting a historic record. Shrimp broodstock and microalgae sales comprised the majority of the growth. Finfish, shellfish and ornamental fish accounted for additional sales.

Source: Census of Aquaculture (2013 data) and Statistics of Hawaii Agriculture by NASS (all other years)

Why Do We Need Aquaculture?

According to a 2013 study, approximately 49 percent of the seafood consumed in Hawaii is imported from the U.S. mainland and foreign countries.  Seafood constitutes an important staple in the diets of Hawaii`s people.  Hawaii`s seafood consumption is further boosted by the millions of visitors every year who seek high-quality, fresh and tasty seafood.  Total expenditures on seafood by Hawaii residents and visitors was estimated to be $664 million in 2005. Increasing the production of local seafood will generate increased revenues, create high-wage, skilled jobs, reduce our reliance on imported seafood, and ensure better product quality control. These outcomes are in line with the Hawaii`s food self-sufficiency initiative and will help redevelop a strong regional food system in the state.

The U.S. imports up to 90 percent of its seafood. In 2015, total seafood imports rose to $20.2 billion according to NOAA Fisheries. U.S. farmed seafood was valued at $1.38 billion in 2013 according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. This high level of imported seafood renders us vulnerable to volatile prices in the international market, as well as to inconsistency in food safety practices and health standards of exporting countries.

The world`s population is projected to surpass the 9 billion mark by 2050. To provide adequate food and a balanced diet to such a population will be a major challenge given the current depleting of natural resources. Fish has become increasingly popular in the U.S. as a result of the trend toward healthier diet choices. Similarly, fish consumption in developing countries has risen as the emerging middle-classes turn to fish as a delicacy. Yet, while the demand for seafood has skyrocketed, fishery resources are dwindling.  Overfishing worldwide has created irreversible damage to marine ecosystems. Ninety percent of all large fish, including tuna, swordfish, marlin, cod, halibut, skates, and flounder, are now gone.

The gap between seafood supply and demand creates an opportunity for Hawaii`s aquaculture industry.  It is also in our nation’s best interest to produce more seafood domestically. Driven by rapid technological advancements, aquaculture is poised to becoming a major growth industry.  There are now great opportunities for entrepreneurs, experts, and venture capitalists to become industry pioneers, making Hawaii the Silicon Valley of the seafood business.

Resources/Advantages of Hawaii for Aquaculture Growth

Natural Resources: The Hawaiian Islands are incredibly rich in the natural resources required for aquaculture.   These include diverse climate zones; 600,000 acres of suitable land with abundant access to fresh, brackish and salt water; and 143,000 acres of coastline with the potential for mariculture. Thanks to the wide variety of microclimates in Hawaii, farmers have the potential to grow virtually any aquaculture species somewhere in the State.

Technology Assistance: Hawaii is fortunate to be a world center of aquaculture expertise in many species and technologies. Public and private research organizations have pioneered the development of extensive, semi-intensive and intensive culture systems, and they regularly consult around the world. Local experts have developed extensive knowledge and experience in the spawning and rearing of mullet, milkfish, freshwater prawns, marine finfish, and marine shrimp. Several companies specialize in the production and sale of certified disease-free shrimp broodstock and seedstock, and oyster and clam seedstock.  Hawaii is also home to leading technology companies in microalgae and seaweed production.  Those seeking to enter the aquaculture industry in Hawaii benefit from an exceptional level of cooperation between researchers, extension personnel and commercial producers in the local communities.

Human Resources: The high level of resident technical expertise and the general sophistication of the labor force available to high-technology businesses are noteworthy for Hawaii’s aquaculture development. Hawaii is home to many internationally-renowned aquaculture consultants who assist farmers around the globe.

Financial Assistance: The State Department of Agriculture offers low-interest loans for commercial aquaculture to qualified individuals and companies. Other funding sources include commercial banks, the Production Credit Association, the USDA Rural Development Agency, and the Small Business Administration. Hawaii is also rapidly developing a pool of angel investors and venture capitalists who are increasingly interested in high-technology aquaculture projects. Click here to access information on available loan programs:

Large Local Seafood Demand: Hawaii has one of the most high-demand seafood markets in the U.S. with per capita consumption at 2.3 times the national average. New farmers can establish themselves with a strong local market in Hawaii before expanding nationally and internationally.

World-Famous Tourist Destination: Over 9 million tourists vacation in Hawaii every year. In addition to taking in Hawaii’s breathtaking natural beauty and unique culture, tourists are drawn to Hawaii’s products. Local seafood is highly sought after by visitors, gaining worldwide recognition as experiences are shared with families and friends. Opportunities abound for the synergistic promotion of Hawaii tourism and farmed seafood.

Farmed Species in Hawaii

Hawaii enjoys a widespread reputation for high-quality seafood. Aquaculture has diversified the selection of Island seafood and produces both warmwater and coldwater fish and shellfish, grown in fresh, brackish, and saltwater. Here is a list of the available products.

  • Abalone (red, Haliotus refens and Japanese, Haliotus discus hanai)
  • Aquatic plants such as ogo (Gracilaria spp.) and sea asparagus (Salicornia)
  • Broodstock and juvenile shrimp ( vanamei, L. monodon, L. stylirostris)
  • Catfish (Clarius fuscus)
  • Freshwater and marine ornamental fish and plants, e.g., seahorses (various species)
  • Freshwater Prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii)
  • Kahala (amberjack, Seriola rivoliana)
  • Marine shrimp for food (Litopenaeus vannamei)
  • Microalgae (Spirulina sp., Haematococcus sp.)
  • Milkfish (Chanos chanos)
  • Oysters (various species)
  • Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
  • Seed oysters (Crassostrea gigas, Venerupis philippinarum, Crassostrea sikamea)
  • Tilapia (Tilapia sp.)


Section 2

Introduction to Open Ocean Fish Farming

Open ocean fish farming, or offshore aquaculture, is an emerging approach to raising fish in open ocean waters utilizing submersible cages or net pens. Fish grow better and are healthier in this natural, high-energy environment. The locations chosen for open ocean aquaculture are in deeper and less sheltered waters, far from shore and sensitive ecosystems. Strong ocean currents sweep away feed residues and waste, greatly reducing any environmental impact.

Open ocean fish farming is a sustainable aquaculture method that lowers the risk of disease and provides a more humane and natural growing environment for fish. A NOAA study (December 2013) concluded that coast ocean aquaculture can be environmentally sustainable with little to no effects on coastal ocean environment, given the use of proper safeguards and planning. See

The Hawaii archipelago is 1500 miles long with over 740 miles of coastline. The Hawaii Ocean leasing law allows farm operations in state waters, within 3 miles of shore. In order to meet growing consumer demand, we need to farm the seas just like we have farmed the land. Modern, ever improving open ocean aquaculture technologies enable farmers to do so. Hawaii has the potential to be the world leader in open ocean fish farming being one of the pioneering states in aquaculture technology.

Success Story

Blue Ocean Mariculture (, situated in the offshore waters of Kona, has raised and harvested Hawaiian Kampachi sustainably for years. Premium, sashimi-grade Hawaiian Kampachi is well received by Hawaii’s top chefs and restaurants, as well as the best sushi and “white tablecloth” restaurants throughout the rest of the country. Blue Ocean manages all aspects of Kampachi’s life cycle to ensure a high-quality product and minimal impact on the environment.

Hawaii welcomes entrepreneurs and investors to establish new aquaculture businesses. Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services (ALSS) is available for consultation and guidance.


Section 3


There is tremendous growth potential for aquaculture industry since the demand for seafood outpaces supply and world fishery resources are quickly depleting. Aspiring entrepreneurs who can seize the opportunity now can establish themselves early as pioneers in this emerging global industry. While aquaculture, like all businesses, has its risks, careful planning and use of available resources, can help ensure success.

Success Factors

Five elements essential to a successful fish farming enterprise are: suitable land, suitable water, adequate financing, a sustainable market, and management time and skills. The business owner must be equipped to handle the challenges of:

  •       Poor water quality
  •       Disease and parasites
  •       Pesticide contaminations
  •       Competition from local and imported products
  •       Doing business in a unique island environment (i.e., with higher feed cost, distance to markets, transportation costs, etc.)

Cost of a New Business

The amount of money one needs to start an aquaculture business depends on the scale and type of production chosen. A “backyard” project may cost a few hundred dollars to construct if a site is available. This kind of systems can produce hundreds of pounds of fish for family consumption. A profitable commercial farm, however, may require 5 to 10 acres to be economically viable, depending on the type of culture technology being used and the species grown. A large-scale, semi-intensive or intensive production farm of 50 to 100 acres could easily cost several million dollars to construct.

To thoroughly learn details of an aquaculture business, click on Fish Farming Checklist for Hawaii.

Example of a Fish Farm’s Budget

The link below provides an example of a hybrid striped bass farm’s budget prepared by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program. It provides a general idea of what a farm’s budget may look like.

Marketing of Seafood Products

Marketing is essential to a farming business’s success. Effective marketing can help a farmer sell his products and start another production cycle. Key concepts of marketing are elaborated below.

  1. Study the Market

Before launching a business, research into the market is recommended to determine the viability of one`s idea. This process helps to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed venture, its feasibility within the estimated cost structure, and likelihood of making a profit. Through this process, one will discover current market segmentation, project growth in the segment chosen, compare current market offerings, learn customer profiles, and choose an operation/management structure and management method.

  1. Distribution Channels

After harvest, Hawaii farmers usually sell their seafood to seafood wholesalers, who then sell to retail stores or foodservice establishments. Some farmers sell to restaurants directly in addition to working with a wholesaler. They must consider the additional cost of delivery.

  1. Branding

Branding is crucial to a business’ success. It helps consumers distinguish a company’s products from those of competitors’ and become loyal to the brand. Successful branding entails identifying a niche segment, careful positioning based on differentiation, articulating a brand’s promise, delivering the promised value, and, ideally, telling a story.

  1. Current Marketing/Sales Channels

Currently, farmers’ markets and ethnic markets such as Chinatown provide important outlets for local producers to sell their products. Organic stores such as Whole Foods, Down to Earth and others, also carry local products. Traditional grocery stores sometimes carry them too. With consistent quality and volume farmers can sell more of their products.

HDOA sponsors the “Buy Local, It Matters” campaign and “Seal of Quality” program to encourage local consumers to buy more local products. To learn more about these marketing programs, go to


Section 4

If you are interested in starting an aquaculture business, ALSS strongly recommends contacting relevant permitting agencies early in the project planning process to begin discussions of information requirements for the proposed site, production technology, and species chosen. Developing a general business plan will be helpful. You can also hire professional permitting assistance.

To make an initial determination of which federal, state and county environmental permits and regulatory requirements may be relevant to securing a particular site, whether inland, coastal, or in the ocean, click here to see an illustrated chart.

Also, click on this link to open “Permits and Regulatory Requirements for Aquaculture Hawaii”, a guide to applying for permits in Hawaii. The information in this publication is current as of July 2011. Readers must check with permit issuers as to the applicability of the information.


Section 5

Hawaii is the world-famous center for producing specific pathogen-free (SPF) shrimp broodstock. These animals are used to produce offspring in countries where shrimp diseases are a problem. Currently, Hawaii SPF broodstock is exported to China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The export value in 2014 was $26 million.

The Hawaii Shrimp Health Certification Program is managed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Animal Disease Control Branch. Participating shrimp operations are continuously monitored and tested for specific pathogens. Operations that test negative for 2 years or more are considered specific pathogen-free (SPF). The animals produced at these operations are valued for their health status.

For more information, please contact the Aquaculture Veterinary Medical Officer.

Lei Yamasaki, DVM, MS
Veterinary Medical Officer
Department of Agriculture, State of Hawaii
Animal Disease Control Branch
99-941 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, HI 96701-5602
Phone: (808) 483-7126


If you are interested in purchasing Hawaii shrimp broodstock, please contact the SPF operations listed below.

Keawa Nui Farms DBA Molokai Broodstock Company (Molokai)
Contact: Mr. John Austin
Address: HC 1-479, Kaunakakai, HI 96748
Telephone: +1 808 558 8931
FAX: +1 808 558 8934
Product: Broodstock, post-larvae
Species: Litopenaeus vannamei

Kona Bay Marine Resources – Waimea Aquatic Laboratory (Kauai)
Contact: Mr. Jim Sweeney
Address: 7550 Kaumualii Hwy., Kekaha, HI 96752
Phone: +1 808 338 0331
FAX: +1 808 338 0332
Product: Broodstock, post-larvae
Species: Litopenaeus vannamei

Moana Technologies (Big Island)

Contact: Ms. Ester Tolentino
Address: 73-4460 Queen Kaahumanu Highway #121, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Phone: +1 808 331 2704
FAX: +1 808 331 2457
Product: Broodstock, post-larvae
Species: Penaeus monodon


Molokai Sea Farms International (Molokai)
Contact: Mr. Steve Chaikin
Address: P. O. Box 560, Kaunakakai, HI 96748
Phone: +1 808 553 3547
FAX: +1 808 553 5216
Product: Broodstock, post-larvaeSpecies: Litopenaeus vannamei


Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University (Oahu)
Contact Dr. Dustin Moss
Address: 41-202 Kalanianaole Highway, Waimanalo, HI 96795
Phone: +1 808 259 3186
Product: Broodstock, post-larvae
Species: Litopenaeus vannamei


Shrimp Improvement Systems Hawaii (Big Island)
Contact: Mr. David Leong
Address: 73-4460 Kaahumanu Highway Suite #108, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Phone: +1 808 331 3691
Product: Broodstock, post-larvae
Species: Litopenaeus vannamei, Litopenaeus stylirostris, Penaeus monodon


Section 6


University of Hawaii

The ten campuses of the University of Hawaii System provide important expertise and infrastructure for aquaculture development in the State. Facilities at the University’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology on Oahu provide cutting-edge research and training capabilities in biotechnology and aquaculture. The University of Hawaii is also a premier research institution in the Pacific and a Land Grant and Sea Grant University, with strong programmatic ties throughout the Asian Pacific Basin. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available in a variety of disciplines, and marine sciences and aquaculture have been targeted as areas of excellence to be pursued.

University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program

The Sea Grant College Program offers “hands-on” extension assistance throughout the State. The Program also funds innovative aquaculture research every year, usually in partnership with the State. Faculty in a variety of disciplines can submit proposals for consideration.

Hawaii Pacific University – Oceanic Institute

Oceanic Institute, an affiliate of Hawai’i Pacific University, is a not-for-profit research and development organization dedicated to marine aquaculture, biotechnology, and coastal resource management.  Its mission is to develop and transfer economically responsible technologies to increase aquatic food production while promoting the sustainable use of ocean resources.

Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture (CTSA)

CTSA, established in 1986, is jointly administered by the Oceanic Institute and University of Hawaii. It is one of the 5 United States Department of Agriculture regional aquaculture centers, which fund and support aquaculture research, development, demonstration, and extension education to enhance viable and profitable U.S. aquaculture. Unlike the other centers, which work within a defined geographical region, the CTSA “region” encompasses tropical and subtropical species wherever they are cultured. Research projects span the American Insular Pacific, using its extensive resource base to meet the needs and concerns of the tropical aquaculture industry.


The Hub is a unique social network that allows everyone who has an interest in feeding the world via aquaculture to educate, learn, share and be engaged with other people who have similar interests. The site features an online video learning library. The goal of AquacultureHub is to help advance the development and implementation of aquaculture programs that promote food security and food safety, involving collaboration between both internal and external entities relevant to Hawaii’s movement towards sustainable aquaculture.

Aquaculture Training for On-Line Learning (ATOLL) Program

ATOLL program consists of four courses with more than 60 videos and digital games to give viewers an understanding of:

  •    Aquaculture and fisheries management
  •    Aquaponics concepts and systems
  •    Basic water chemistry, water quality, fish health and nutrition
  •    Basic biology, genetics, coral farming, reef ecology, marketing and business

NOAA Aquaculture

The Office of Aquaculture of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) addresses regulatory and policy issues related to marine aquaculture in federal waters such as permit consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency on endangered species, fish habitat, and marine mammal protection. NOAA is an international leader in aquaculture research and technology development. The Office of Aquaculture contributes to public understanding and appreciation of the role of aquaculture as a vital national food source and fishery management tool.

United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Aquaculture

USDA provides data and statistics on the U.S. aquaculture industry including production, inventory, market trends, sales, prices, inputs, and trade of catfish, trout, tilapia, salmon, mollusks, crawfish, shrimp, ornamental fish, and new species. It has an aquaculture national health monitoring system, and aquaculture research grants and extension programs.