The Oceanic Institute of Hawaii Pacific University has received a federal grant of nearly $300,000 for its innovative work rejuvenating the Hawaiian goatfish in Hawaii’s nearshore waters.
The grant comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy Program. The goatfish, or Parupeneus porphyreus, is an esteemed food fish. It is known locally as kumu, and is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world.
“Kumu is a highly regarded and culturally important reef species that has experienced significant population decreases over the past several decades,” said Chatham Callan, principal investigator of the grant, in a news release.
Callan’s grant is titled “Engaging Hawaii’s Fishing Community to Establish Marine Aquaculture Techniques for Kumu, an Endemic Hawaiian Goatfish (Parupeneus porphyreus).” His research will focus on developing culture methods for marine fish species for local food production, as well as to aid in marine conservation.
“This exciting project will utilize hatchery technology recently developed at OI to culture species such as yellow tang, to innovate culture methods for kumu,” he said in the release. “If successful, this research could pave the way for large scale production of kumu for fisheries restoration and commercial markets.”
The Oceanic Institute at HPU has had a long and successful history of breakthroughs in aquaculture technology, including a series of successes in the feeding and nurturing of yellow tang in captivity, as well as the development of a breeding program for Pacific white shrimp.
The goal is to offer alternatives to wild-caught fish and alleviate the stress on Hawaii’s reefs.
“Five years ago, we were producing dozens of yellow tang at a time,” said Callan. “In a short period of five years, we have gone from dozens of yellow tang to thousands. It’s really exciting, and we know we have to get to tens of thousands before we will become a viable alternative to the wild trade.”
Kumu, once an abundant fish in Hawaii’s nearshore waters, has also fallen victim to overfishing in recent years, according to the institute. Several years ago, NOAA classified kumu as an overfished species in a technical memorandum that assessed 27 reef-associated fish stocks around the main Hawaiian islands.