About the PACRC

Aerial view of PACRC facility at Keaukaha
Aerial view of PACRC facility at Keaukaha.

After a gestation period lasting more than a decade, the Center is now in operation at two field sites on the Big Island—a coastal site (Keaukaha) adjacent to the Port of Hilo, and an inland site (Panaewa), six miles away. At Keaukaha, an old wastewater treatment plant was converted into the physical core of the Center. The initial focus at Keaukaha will be ornamental fish culture and the cultivation of pearl oysters. The primary purpose of the Panaewa site is quarantine, health management and integrated agriculture-aquaculture farming systems. The new PACRC facilities, in combination with the new UH-Hilo Marine Science Building, greatly enhances the international reputation as a premier location for education and research in marine sciences, aquaculture and coastal resources.

The Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center operates aquaculture and coastal resource management projects worldwide, including Ecuador, Fiji, Honduras, Marshall Islands, México, Federated States of Micronesia, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Thailand, and the United States. In addition to aquaculture and coastal management, the center is rapidly expanding its work in the environmental sciences and coastal resources. The PACRC coordinates the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science (PIPES) for under represented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region. Further, the Center houses the Hawaiʻi Cooperative Studies Unit (HCSU), a collaborative research program with the US Geological Survey, that is conducting over 25 projects on a wide array of resource management issues. Why Hilo? Hawaii is, without a doubt, a great place for aquaculture.

The Hawaiians themselves have an extensive system of pond culture dating back more than 700 years and finfish culture is considered an integral part of their island heritage. In 1979, Hawaii was the first U.S. state to implement an aquaculture development plan to provide research funding and critical support services to the industry. Since that time, commercial production has increased over 40 times to $28.1M dollars in 2004 (according to the latest annual report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Acrobat format), and values of Hawaii-grown aquaculture products are steadily increasing. Today Hawaii is overwhelmingly contributing to global aquaculture efforts by providing cutting-edge research, technical training, degree education, and consulting expertise for key species and production systems. Hilo is one of the few places on Earth where warm seawater, warm freshwater, and deep, cold seawater can be readily obtained. Thus, it is possible to grow most types of fish, shellfish and algae (tropical to cold-water) throughout the year. Additionally, a wide range of aquatic habitats ranging from tide pools, estuaries, coral reefs, rocky shorelines, and deep open ocean occur within only a mile or two of the Center, providing excellent resources for aquaculture and coastal system research.

Development Plan Approximately $3.7 million has already been obtained for the first phase of the Center from variety of sources including the County of Hawaii, State of Hawaii, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and the University of Hawaii. Additionally, coastal land with a value in excess of $3 million was transferred to the University for this project. Basic cleanup of the old wastewater treatment plant and removal of rubbish from the adjacent parcel has been completed. Detailed designs for the site layout were completed in September 2005 by an architectural and engineering firm.

Major components of the Keaukaha facilty include internal roads, parking lots, a few offices, a water quality laboratory, brackish and saltwater wells, and large greenhouse-like structures which contain tanks. In Panaewa, a pathology labortory, quarantine facilities, a freshwater fish hatchery, and several ponds are currently being constructed. Our long-term goals are to provide an infrastructure needed for world-class aquaculture and marine science programs at UH Hilo, support commercial aquaculture, fisheries and eco-tourism in East Hawaii, and transfer technologies developed and tested at the Center to similar coastal areas throughout the world. Land, water, and other resources are being made be available for the development of small- scale research facilities by collaborating organizations, including the private sector.