Sunday, March 4, 2018

05/03/2018: University of Hawaiʻiat Hilo centre grows oysters and the aquaculture workforce

According to a recent press release from the University of Hawaiʻiat Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Centre, hundreds of students have gained valuable hands-on experience at the nine-acre centre in Keaukaha, developing aquaponics and raising ornamental and food fish, shellfish and algae throughout the year. 

Image credit: Samantha Celera on Flickr
(CC BY-ND 2.0)
UH Hilo Associate Professor Maria Haws serves as the centre’s director. She says about 400 students have been employed since workforce training started there in 2008. “We (also) have interns and volunteers and research students. They’ve learned everything about aquaculture production, everything from the hatchery, where we might produce juvenile fish or juvenile oysters, everything up to the actual farming of these organisms,” says Prof. Haws.

UH Hilo has the only four-year aquaculture program in the state, and the centre has the only facility dedicated to aquaculture and coastal management education, research and outreach to the community and industry.

“I get to do a lot with fish and fish rearing systems so I get that hands-on knowledge that I wouldn’t get if I was just sitting in a classroom,” says Orion Friels, a sophomore majoring in aquaculture. “I feel like I’m learning a lot more this way.”

Hope Helg earned her agroecology degree from UH Hilo in 2011. Today she manages the algae laboratory that feeds oysters and other marine organisms at the centre. Ms Helg says working at the centre as a student prepared her and others well.

“It’s a good way of critical thinking and being creative, and it sets students up for the future in the real world,” she said. Besides training the workforce and researchers of tomorrow, the UH Hilo centre is helping to develop sustainable seafood production.

“We import 80 percent of our seafood in Hawaiʻi. What could be more important than trying to be more self-reliant in food and also conservation?” asks Prof. Haws. “Almost everything we do in aquaculture has a tie to conservation if not directly influencing conservation efforts.”

The centre’s work is gaining national recognition. It is a partner with UH Sea Grant as a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Aquaculture and received National Sea Grant funding for oyster farming in Hilo Bay.

For more information visit the University of Hawaiʻi website, HERE, or the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Centre website, HERE.

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