Look Closer: Breakthroughs in Aquaculture at Oceanic Institute

Look Closer: Breakthroughs in Aquaculture at Oceanic Institute



HPU researchers and students have been busy packing the results of their work for shipment to the sustainable wholesaler Biota Aquariums in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Yellow tang, the top aquarium fish collected from Hawai‘i’s reefs, is also one of the world’s most popular. A series of breakthroughs in the feeding and nurturing of the fish in captivity now enables their production through aquaculture to help alleviate the stress on Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystem. Plus, the work adds to the promise of sustainable marine life for the growing global population.

Program Director Chatham Callan, Ph.D, says the growing field of aquaculture will continue to change not just the aquarium trade, but the food-fish industry as well, as we currently risk fishing the world’s oceans beyond their capacity.



“Five years ago we were producing dozens of fish at a time. So in that short period of five years going from dozens to thousands is really exciting and we know we have to get to tens of thousands before we will become a viable alternative to the wild trade.“

It’s taken almost 20 years to reach this point of survival by the thousands. The work with yellow tang is among the breakthroughs that will spell relief for wild fish populations near Hawaii’s coral reefs and around the world. Populations that are at risk of depletion.

The yellow tang project, along with many others at HPU’s Oceanic Institute, gives students hands-on exposure to the vital and growing field of aquaculture. Katie Hiew, of Hannover, Pennsylvania, is working on her master’s.



“I’ve always known that wanted to study marine biology since I was born, basically. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. But I loved raising fish and I loved seeing the life stages and I loved seeing them go from egg to adult”

For Marine Biology Junior Jeremy Zielinski, of Sunnyvale, CA, this summer brought his first chance to volunteer in the yellow tang project, and he’s seeing that aquaculture is likely going to be a great fit with his interests.



“I don’t know. It’s just cool. Everything about the ocean just fascinates me. I’ve always liked fishing, diving, spearfishing, everything. I guess it’s just an extension of it. But it’s controlled and you’re in charge.”  


Hawaii Pacific University’s Oceanic Institute is also leading aquaculture research on other species of marine life, including the development of sustainable shrimp farming in partnership with producers around the world, and even in the land-locked Midwestern US.


Chatham Callan says the need for advancements in aquaculture grows greater each year.



“With a global population that’s going to be 10, 11 billion in the next 10 years, we need to have a way to feed them. And we need to have a way to protect our environment. And so aquaculture can do both of those things. It can provide food for a growing population and it can also help conserve the marine environment by taking pressure off the ecosystem and maybe even someday replacing depleted fisheries with cultured species.”