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Tide to Table Profiles: Blue Ocean Mariculture

October 29, 2021

Blue Ocean Mariculture is a finfish grower located in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

A school of farmed Kanpachi swimming off the coast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana) is in the same family as yellowtail and is prized by chefs. The species is marked by a dark blue-green upper body with a lavender-tinted belly and elongated fins. Credit: Blue Ocean Mariculture.

Using large, open-ocean net pens off of Kailua-Kona, Blue Ocean Mariculture sustainably raises a native Hawaiian Almaco jack species that they brand as Kanpachi. Their fish is available fresh all year to chefs and seafood lovers in the Pacific Islands and across North America.

The company conducts much of the aquaculture process in-house. This includes onshore work such as hatchery operation and lab research, as well as offshore work to raise Kanpachi in the company’s net pens.

Blue Ocean Mariculture keeps its own broodstock, and the captive adult fish provide eggs to raise in the hatchery. After hatching, the juvenile fingerlings are sent to offshore net pens. The Kanpachi take about 14 months to grow from an egg to market size. When ready, they are harvested from the net pen, brought into shore for processing, and shipped to customers all over North America.

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At the water's edge, a Blue Ocean Mariculture employee wearing a "Hawaiian Kanpachi" hat smiles while holding a large Kanpachi fish.
Kanpachi is native to the waters of Hawaii. Credit: Blue Ocean Mariculture.​​​​

A Focus on Sustainability

Blue Ocean Mariculture’s Chief Executive Officer Dick Jones states, “Water quality is everything, and not just for the health and welfare of fish. To run a responsible aquaculture business, we need to do things in a way that leaves no detectable impact on the environment. Everyone who works at Blue Ocean Mariculture is an ocean steward.”

Close attention is paid to water quality. Both the up and down currents are lab tested at different depths to ensure that fish waste, known as effluent, does not negatively impact local waters. Environmental monitors are used to test dissolved oxygen levels in and around cages on a regular basis. As a result of their efforts, there is no impact detected on the ocean floor below the cages, which are located 200 feet beneath the water’s surface.

The company also documents interactions with local mammals and seabirds, to monitor any changes in behavior. “We respect the ocean and do everything that we can to make it a better place,” adds Jones.

To help the next generation of aquaculturists grow, Blue Ocean Mariculture works with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to place students in the organization. They currently have six University of Miami alumni on staff. They are also developing an internship program with the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

From Farm to Table

Blue Ocean Mariculture provides national, regional, and local sales support through an extensive network of distributors. The Honolulu Fish Company sells Blue Ocean Mariculture’s farm-raised Kanpachi directly to consumers. The Kanpachi are also sold to distributors that supply restaurants and grocery stores around the United States and Canada.

The company practices what Jones describes as “food self-sufficiency,” a strategy to keep fresh seafood accessible to their local community. “Because Hawaii is an island state with a significant year-round population and millions of visitors, it’s important to keep food on the island, not just sell and ship to the mainland. Blue Ocean Mariculture focuses on providing local Hawaiian customers with fresh Kanpachi before we ship any of our product elsewhere.”

Jones also detailed how the company carefully balances its inventory of fish processed and sold before starting another harvest. “If we sell 3,000 fish today, that’s how many we’ll pull out of the water next time. Any fish that goes into the market place is typically no more than a day old by the time it hits its destination.”

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A school of Kanpachi swim in their submersible net pen as aquaculture workers look on from a boat.
The Kanpachi are grown in large submersible net pens off of the Big Island of Hawaii near Kona. Credit: Blue Ocean Mariculture.

Fun Fact

When young, the distinctive bands centered over the eyes look similar to the Japanese symbol for the number 8 (“pachi” or “ハ”), giving the fish its name, “kan pachi” or “center eight.”

Recipe: Macadamia Nut-Crusted Hawaiian Kanpachi with Mango Papaya Salsa

This recipe serves six. You will need a food processor to crush the macadamia nuts for coating the fish.

Crusted Kanpachi Ingredients:

  • 6 six-ounce Hawaiian Kanpachi™ fillets
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups macadamia nuts
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 papaya, peeled, seeded, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Combine salsa ingredients in large bowl and stir to blend. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. (Salsa can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Place flour in shallow bowl.
  4. Whisk eggs in small bowl to blend.
  5. Finely grind nuts in processor, transfer nuts to another bowl. 
  6. Sprinkle Hawaiian Kanpachi™ fillets with salt and pepper. 
  7. Coat fillets with flour. Dip fillets into eggs, then macadamia nuts, coating completely. 
  8. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  9. Place fillets in skillet; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
  10. Transfer fillets to large baking sheet. Bake fish until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes depending on thickness. 
  11. Divide salsa on plates, top with fish and serve.

Learn more about Blue Ocean Mariculture

Sustainable Seafood from Tide to Table

The Tide to Table series profiles members of the aquaculture community, who provide valuable jobs and increase access to fresh, sustainably sourced American seafood. Aquaculture is about more than seafood production. It is about ecosystem stewardship, coastal communities, and economic opportunities.

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Last updated by Office of Aquaculture on November 02, 2021