Island of Hawaii Week: Kanaloa Octopus Farm

KHON2's Wake Up 2day and Living808 present a special series from the Island of Hawaii. Trini Kaopuiki went exploring and found the joys of a staycation on Hawaii's largest island.

Kanaloa Octopus Farm, located at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in North Kona, is the first commercial octopus farm in the U.S. The self-funded enterprise, which got underway in summer of 2015, is looking to successfully rear octopus on land, first for aquariums and someday to supply the market.

Raising octopus on land is the brainchild of Jake Conroy, a 2010 Hawaii Pacific University graduate who holds a bachelor's degree in marine biology. His past aquaculture work includes research for HPU's Oceanic Institute on cultivating the yellow tang, a popular salt water aquarium fish, and work with the state Division of Aquatic Resources on preserving sea urchin populations.

Conroy turned his attention to octopus because overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution have resulted in a tragic decline in octopus populations all over the world. He says that although Hawaii's fisherman tend to harvest wild octopus from the ocean in a sustainable way, old-timers say they can see the population is shrinking.

The goal of Kanaloa Octopus Farm is to produce a sustainable alternative to wild-caught octopus for aquariums, researchers, and saltwater aquarium hobbyists. The main hurdle to successful octopus aquaculture is that it is currently difficult to culture early-stage larvae and survival rates are low.

The farm's main work is research aimed at developing reliable food sources for octopus larvae and increasing the number that reach maturity. If the problem of octopus larvae survival can be solved, octopus farming could prove very lucrative. Octopus grow rapidly and reach maturity in a year.

The aquaculture research at Kanaloa Octopus Farm is funded entirely from tours offered to the public twice a day. Locals and visitors are encouraged to explore the facility, learn about the octopus, and meet them up close and person. The tours are $20 per person. Booking is available online only.

Kanaloa Octopus Farm is located at 73-987 Makako Bay Drive in Kailua-Kona. For more information, callĀ (818) 514-5997.

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