LIHU‘E — A project to increase the availability and market value of Kaua‘i-caught ahi is finally coming to fruition.
Ahi Hub Kaua‘i launches Wednesday with the first of three workshops featuring fishing professionals from throughout the United States.
“Because of all the issues confronting small-boat operators on Kaua‘i — particularly after COVID — there’s been a new recognition of the importance of local, fresh food and food security,” said organizer Dr. Molly Lutcavage of the nonprofit Pacific Islands Fisheries Group.
Lutcavage is well-known to local fishers, with whom she’s collaborated to research ahi, or yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) movements throughout the Hawaiian Islands and beyond.
Ahi Hub Kaua‘i stems from conversations held throughout this years-long relationship between boat captains and scientists.
Fishers have consistently shared concerns regarding the low price of locally caught ahi and market retailers’ reliance on non-local fish.
Now Ahi Hub Kaua‘i, operated by PIFG and funded by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant, will attempt to address these issues.
It all begins at Wednesday’s inaugural workshop, to be held online at 11 a.m.
Four East Coast panelists, including celebrity Capt. Dave Marciano of the National Geographic TV show “Wicked Tuna,” will share their experience in growing and diversifying small fisheries.
Marciano will be joined by seafood dealer Bob Campbell, founder of a fishers cooperative in New Hampshire; Vito Giacalone Jr., whose family invested in “mobile seafood distribution” trucks that sell fillet portions to drive-up customers; and Ann Malloy of Neptune’s Harvest, a brand of organic fertilizer made from gurry (fishing offal).
“We spent a lot of time thinking about who to bring to the table,” Lutcavage said.
“Each of these people is well-known in the fishing world for their innovation.”
The second and third workshops will host fishers from the mainland’s West Coast, including Mark Kajula of Oregon, who operates a small, family-run seafood cannery, and Steve Scheiblauer of California, a former harbormaster now working as a fisheries consultant.
Scheilbauer and experts like him will discuss an important piece of the puzzle at the final workshop, to be held May 25.
“They have all dealt with municipalities and regulations, health inspections, getting the permits, dealing with the state and local community. None of this can happen without that work being done,” Lutcavage said.
“Why we don’t have a tuna dock? Why don’t we have a place for boats to pull up and sell the fish directly from the dock? If we were to have that, that requires that the community and legislators participate and help get to that point.”
The three workshops will be followed by community surveys targeting local fishers and local seafood buyers like restaurant owners.
Ahi Hub Kaua‘i will then publish a curriculum reviewing local fishers’ options going forward, like a “micro-cannery,” or a community dock with rotating featured fishers and a certified commercial kitchen to access a broader customer base.
To access Wednesday’s 11 a.m. workshop on Zoom, using Meeting ID 847 9388 6183. The password is 758048.
More information can be found at Ahi Hub Kaua‘i’s Facebook and Instagram pages. A website, ahihubkauai.org, is now under development.
Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island