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Big Island company wants to release grouper fish

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:03 a.m. HST, May 06, 2014

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii >> A Big Island aquaculture company wants to release in Hawaii waters giant grouper that it bred from fish acquired in Taiwan, but state Department of Agriculture rules prohibit the release of imported fish.

The giant grouper, called hapuupuu in Hawaii, are believed to have once been fairly common in Hawaii and throughout their habitat, which extends west through Polynesia and Indonesia to East Africa. But they are now rare.

Kampachi Farms initially wanted to breed locally caught grouper but couldn't find a specimen, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/Q7tL0L ). So the company acquired broodstock from Taiwan, with the intention of raising them and releasing their offspring. The farm now has about 50 such fish, born in 2008 and each about 2 feet long.

Kampachi Farms has asked the state Department of Agriculture to revise its import permit so it can release the fish.

The company cites the potential benefits to conservation and tourism if reef populations of the species rebound, and have reached out to area tour companies, the West Hawaii Fisheries Council and other entities for support.

"Think of the potential tourist draw," said Neil Sims, CEO of Kampachi Farms. "To be able to dive on these guys would just be terrific."

But William Aila, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, said it's not clear what environmental impacts would be if the fish were released.

"If there were found to be negative impacts, we would certainly hold (Kampachi Farms) responsible for damages," Aila said. "I strongly urge them not to release the fish."

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scooters wrote:
So how do you cook grouper? Aren't they on the giant size?
on May 5,2014 | 12:30PM
Pearlcityguy wrote:
Don't release it... Taiwan giant grouper can grow to over 6ft and 330lb according to Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. http://www.roc-taiwan.org/US/ct.asp?xItem=488530&ctNode=2300&mp=12
on May 5,2014 | 10:07PM
den wrote:
bad idea, they will eat up the other local species.
on May 5,2014 | 12:37PM
atom wrote:
it better not be like the roi, which is a grouper known for ciguatera and eating up all the reef fish. that fish is all over the kona coast.
on May 5,2014 | 12:55PM
tasod wrote:
Don't do it. Groupers eat more than their fair share. This will be bad (ie mongoose will help etc)
on May 5,2014 | 01:46PM
Torchwood wrote:
Really bad idea. den and atom are spot on, introducing an new species will only make it harder for our reef fish to propagate. Not to mention this new fish could end up being useless if it gets ciguatera like the roi. Ta'ape is another case of an introduced fish that nobody wants and competes with other much more desirable fish. Being held for damages means nothing, these guys will end up bankrupt and then what?!
on May 5,2014 | 01:50PM
BRainbow wrote:
on May 5,2014 | 02:13PM
juscasting wrote:
We already have a local species called hapuupuu, deeper water, bottom dwelling species like Ehu, Onaga, Opakapaka. Can grow up to 30lbs or more. Brok the mouth ono kine grinds! So chill out peeps!
on May 5,2014 | 02:17PM
kuewa wrote:
The State should ban any import of non-native, non-endemic sea life that could survive if released. We need to learn from the lessons of the mainland experience with the snakehead and lionfish. Releasing this grouper could lead to the competitive extinction of hapu`u, as well as other sealife. The fact that they can't find any hapu`u is exactly the reason why this non-native grouper should never be released into Hawaiian waters. And incidentally, hapu`upu`u refers to the baby hapu`u.
on May 5,2014 | 02:39PM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
AP missed one important fact here - this is a native species here in Hawaii. Yet it has pretty much been wiped out, throughout its range. It is probably the rarest coral reef fish in the world. The IUCN Red List describes this fish as "Vulnerable" - one step away from endangered. (see more at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/7858/0). Our motives for re-stocking some small numbers of this fish are for conservation purposes only - to try to bring this species back from the brink. We would not be proposing to do this if it was not native, or if it was already a stable population.
on May 5,2014 | 03:04PM
kuewa wrote:
So, are you saying that you acquired broodstock of native hapu`u from Taiwan? Haw identity with the native species been verified?
on May 5,2014 | 03:08PM
kuewa wrote:
on May 5,2014 | 03:15PM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
Kuewa, it is indeed the same species. See more on Epinephelus lanceolatus at http://www.fishbase.org/summary/6468
on May 5,2014 | 03:36PM
kuewa wrote:
I've read your links, but they do not prove that the fish that you wish to release are identical to the local variety. Species identity is at a higher level. Has there been DNA comparison against a locally wild-caught hapu`u?
on May 5,2014 | 03:58PM
Maipono wrote:
"Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila says it's not clear what environmental impacts would be if the fish were released. He says Kampachi Farms would be held responsible for damages if there were any negative impacts." So does this mean the release is a "done deal"? We have had so many examples of the bad results when some good intending people release exotic plants and animals to "improve" the indigenous stock with sad results. Please do not allow the release of the Kampachi Grouper into our precious ocean.
on May 5,2014 | 03:14PM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
Maipono, this is a native species. It's classified as "vulnerable". It is not exotic. It has been pretty much wiped out, out there. Nothing is a done deal. We are asking State Ag to approve a limited release of a few individuals to try to re-establish the population of this fish in Kona.
on May 5,2014 | 03:34PM
Numilalocal wrote:
Just remember the old law of unintended consequences...
on May 5,2014 | 05:56PM
false wrote:
Hello, the fish is already here… must have been in Hawaiian waters a long time if it has a Hawaiian name… duh. Sounds like a great way to reestablish a species that's almost been wiped out. Oh, if someone does think it's a "pest"… just tell the locals that 1. It's good to eat. 2. The season is closed. 3. There is a daily bag limit. (they will wipe it out in a month)
on May 5,2014 | 07:04PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Hahahahahaha! So true.
on May 5,2014 | 09:25PM
kuewa wrote:
Yes, there is a member of the same species that is indigenous to Hawai`i, which is called hapu`u (hapu`upu`u refers to the keiki). However, the fish that the company wants to release was bred in Taiwan, presumably from Asian grouper. Even if it is the same species, there could be differences in genetic make-up and behavior characteristics that adversely affect the local ecosystem. So no, it's not as simple as you make it seem.
on May 6,2014 | 12:37AM
dlum003 wrote:
Tourist draw??! Is that guy nuts? That a large predatory species that will kill off the lower food chain. That i diot's statement alone screams NO!
on May 5,2014 | 09:00PM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
Nuts? Please google "potato cod, queensland, tourism" and have a look at the photos of grouper tourism on GBR. And ask some of the dive tour operators how they would feel about it. Predation on the lower feed chain? This excerpt is from our draft request to State Ag PQB: "The grouper situation here closely mirrors that in Florida with their giant grouper, Epinephelus itajara. It too was driven to near extinction by overfishing. Florida however had the foresight to protect their “Goliath Grouper” in 1990, and their populations have started to recover. The fishing lobby advocated “thinning out” the groupers as a solution to the dwindling commercial harvests of lobster and snapper. A well-designed scientific study showed that the recovering grouper population was not responsible; the most likely cause was recreational and commercial overfishing. (see the study at S. Frias-Torres, 2012. Should the Critically Endangered Goliath grouper E. itajara be culled in Florida? Fauna & Flora Int., Oryx, 47(1), 88-95)". Thanks.
on May 6,2014 | 02:01PM
alsim wrote:
Neil Sims has a history of not paying any attention to the scientific evidence available to him. The species he refers to is indeed a widespread one that is only occasionally found in Hawaii, but it is NOT endemic. It is a HUGE fish with the potential of reaching up to 900 lbs and is potentially a major predator of other native fish. The image shown in this article is NOT the species he is referring to, but is rather a rendering of the endemic Hapu‘u. It is totally misleading to have that image in this article and the Star Advertiser should remove it immediately.
on May 5,2014 | 09:15PM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
Thanks, alsim. You are correct in that the image on this article is wrong. We did not provide that image to Star-Adv; they picked the story up from AP. There were plenty of photos of the fish in the West Hawaii Today article, which is available at http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/researchers-want-release-grouper-face-resistance And I do not think I ever said it was "endemic". We have always described it as wide-ranging, but "Vulnerable" (IUCN's term). Marine conservation issues are rarely simply - we are all sharing a common property resource out there. But we like to think that we are guided by the preponderance of scientific evidence. If we are misinformed, please let us know where.
on May 5,2014 | 10:19PM
kuewa wrote:
So, as per my several comments above, the fish which is proposed for release is not the same variety as hapu`u, although it may be classed in the same species. Therefore, the environmental impact of releasing this new variety is not known and could be detrimental to native and endemic sealife. The hapu`u is scarce but not extinct; I suppose breeding hapu`u has been considered and is not considered feasible? Even if this is the case, it is not an excuse for releasing similar fish into the local ecosystem. We are already experiencing problems with ta`ape; not to mention the ill effects on the land ecosystem from mongoose, feral cats, coqui frogs, and alien insects.
on May 6,2014 | 02:44AM
Kampachi_Farms wrote:
Kuewa, please check with Bishop Museum Ichthyology Department for their thoughts on this. We have discussed this with them for years. Here is an excerpt from our draft proposal to State Ag PQB, regarding the genetics questions: "Some concerns have been expressed about the potential genetic impacts from releasing these F1 fish. The broodstock that are still held in quarantine originated from a Taiwanese hatchery, and their progenitors were reportedly collected from the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia. The particular genetic concern that has been voiced has been that these ‘foreign-sourced’ fish would dilute the Hawaiian population’s gene pool. This logic is misplaced. There are so few giant groupers left in Hawaii that the gene pool is probably too small to constitute a viable population. If the Hawaiian-born giant grouper were to increase in numbers without any stock enhancement efforts, then the resulting stock would suffer from “founder effects”, and would be genetically highly vulnerable. The gene pool of the few remaining Hawaiian fish needs to be diversified. Adding F1 or F2 fish from the Taiwan-sourced broodstock line to the limited Hawaii gene pool would therefore be a positive effect.” So hapas. Same species, just more genetic diversity, to make the population more resilient. Does that make sense?
on May 6,2014 | 01:48PM
HealthyandHappy wrote:
Thank you kampachi Farms for responding to claims and questions. I for one have been educated by it.
on May 6,2014 | 12:11AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Recall the tale of the roi here in Hawaii. Recall that, and then say NO WAY JOSE. No releasing of foreign fish here.
on May 6,2014 | 08:55AM
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