An Ocean of Possibility

Aquaculture center director discusses obstacles and opportunities

  • 30 January 2020
  • Author: Frederika Bain
  • Number of views: 1538
An Ocean of Possibility

Cheng-Sheng Lee, the executive director of the Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, was recently interviewed by Aquafeed Magazine about the status of aquaculture in Hawai’i and the Pacific. He has long worked throughout the region with industry stakeholders and researchers to identify and provide solutions for challenges to sustainable aquaculture. 

He received his MS degree at the Institute of Oceanography at the National Taiwan University and his PhD from the University of Tokyo. After 30 years in research, he became the CTSA’s executive director. One of five Regional Aquaculture Centers under the USDA, it administers a region comprised of Hawai‘i and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Its main administrative office is housed in CTAHR.

All five regional aquaculture centers share the same mission to support research, development, demonstration, and Extension education to enhance viable and profitable U.S. aquaculture, with industry stakeholders determining research priorities for each year.

As Cheng-Sheng explains, the inhabitants of the CTSA region all live by the ocean, and the ocean is part of their life. Subsistence fishing provides an important source of protein to its inhabitants. However, the yield from near-shore fisheries has declined in recent years. Therefore, Pacific island countries have a strong interest in aquaculture development to secure seafood supplies. The islands of the Pacific are still the least developed region worldwide in terms of aquaculture, yet this region enjoys superior natural resources for fish farming, such as pristine water, year-round warm weather, and isolated conditions for disease prevention, so there is much opportunity. 

In the interview, Cheng Sheng explains that the availability of affordable feed is to be a common concern for aquaculture producers and what the CTSA is doing to address that. He discusses the production of high-value products such as SPF shrimp broodstock, spirulina algae, and amberjack. He also discusses how traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, such as maintaining fishponds, can teach modern-day aquaculture producers important lessons and skills. 

Cheng Sheng ends the interview by warning, “To make commercial farming possible, besides technology development, capacity building, practitioners, and investors, we need community and government support. Partnership is the key to success in this endeavor. A successful aquaculture operation requires all building blocks to be in place at the same time to complete our ultimate task to increase seafood production. If we do not take action soon, the building blocks we establish will fade away with time.”