Aug 31, 2020

Regional e-Notes: August Letter from the Director


As you are likely aware, Hawai‘i entered another pandemic-related lockdown earlier this month. Covid-19 cases are increasing in the islands at an alarming rate, and our hospital emergency rooms are nearing full capacity. Our team at CTSA is sending our condolences and healing thoughts to all who are experiencing hardship during these unprecedented times.

This pandemic is taking a huge toll on Hawai‘i’s economy and the livelihoods of those who live here. Tourism, the largest contributor to the economy, has understandably slowed to a trickle. Local businesses are closing after decades in service, and thousands of employees are out of work. Young Brothers, the only inter island cargo company in Hawai’i, has received approval to increase shipping rates by 46%, a move that will impact the price of imported food and other goods throughout the islands and that is sure to be felt by all residents. The latter problem is one that highlights a critical issue that extends beyond the pandemic and one that we must urgently address as a region, nation, and global population: food security.

Hawai‘i relies heavily on imports to feed residents, visitors, and livestock. We need to grow more food locally, and with limited land space, the most logical resource to utilize for this purpose is our vast EEZ. In a recent interview, UH system President Lassner (8/19/2020)  commented on how agriculture and aquaculture are part of the equation to repair Hawai‘i’s economy. There have been many articles recently on the food of the future being from the sea, including this interview with High Liner Foods. People are consuming more seafood now than ever before, and I agree with the High Liner SVP that there is a desperate need for coordination among the industry to safely meet that demand. Sadly, an ‘opihi picker died earlier this month while harvesting the popular Hawaiian limpet, which is commonly referred to as “the fish of death” due to precarious placement in dangerous tidal zones. People are willing to risk their lives to harvest seafood, and it shouldn’t have to be that way. Increasing aquaculture production can help us safely meet our seafood and protein market demands. CTSA has funded eight years of research on opihi, led by graduate students under the supervision of Dr. Ako and Dr. Bingham. We hope their research findings can encourage opihi farming in the near future to meet local demand and avoid picking tragedies from happening.  

On that note, CTSA is in the midst of reviewing the eight full proposals that we received as part of our FY20 development process. Each proposal is currently undergoing both internal and external review before our committee decides which will be selected for inclusion in the FY20 Plan of Work. We are hopeful that the FY20 group of projects will solve industry problems, and build and capitalize on opportunities to grow aquaculture production in our region. It is during tough times such as these that we can clearly see the value and importance of working together to create sustainable solutions. Thank you for your contributions to this effort!

Cheng-Sheng Lee, Ph.D.
Executive Director