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Pandemic took bite out of Hawaii’s aquaculture revenue in 2020

  • STAR ADVERTISER / 2018
                                The pandemic caused a drop in sales for farmed animals including tilapia, shown on a farm in Kapaau on Hawaii island.

    STAR ADVERTISER / 2018

    The pandemic caused a drop in sales for farmed animals including tilapia, shown on a farm in Kapaau on Hawaii island.

Hawaii’s aquaculture industry took a 15% sales hit in 2020, according to a government report that said pandemic-related issues hurt production of farm-raised marine animals in the state.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that Hawaii aquaculture sales fell in 2020 to $66.4 million from a record $78.5 million in 2019.

USDA’s report, which is based on surveys of industry operators with assistance from the state Depart­ment of Agriculture, said some producers reported shipping and labor issues due to the coronavirus pandemic that depressed sales.

“The pandemic resulted in a decrease in sales for some segments in the industry, but others were less impacted,” the report said.

One of the less affected industry segments appeared to be algae producers, which largely use microalgae raised in ponds to make nutritional supplements. Algae sales stayed flat at $32.7 million in each of the past two years, according to the report.

In another segment, ornamental marine life that can include species such as angelfish had sales jump to $3.6 million in 2020 from $2.6 million in 2019.

Two other major categories — finfish and shellfish produced for food — do not have total sales publicly disclosed because it would allow competitors to calculate revenue generated by individual companies. However, this is where the broad industry hit to sales occurred, given that revenue for all other categories fell 30% to $30.1 million in 2020 from $43.2 million in 2019.

Animals raised by farms on land or in the ocean around the state include shrimp, oysters, clams, moi, tilapia, kampachi, koi and more.

USDA said it revised its total industry sales figure for 2019, reducing it to $78.5 million from a previously reported $83.2 million.

The agency also did not publish industry sales figures for 2018 or 2013 because it used a different method to gauge revenue that yielded noncomparable results.

The report does not disclose how many farms comprise the industry, but counts peak labor. In 2020 this peak was 344 employees, down from 369 the year before. The industry’s labor peak was 500 in 2016.

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