Kohala aquaculture company gets second international patent


An open ocean aquaculture company has received another international patent for its fish pens.

Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc. received a Canadian patent for its oceanspheres, CEO Bill Spencer said Monday.

“Our goal ultimately is not so much to be tuna farmers,” Spencer said, but to license the company’s technology around the world.

Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc. received its American patent in 2011. That triggered an 18-month period to give notice that the company would be applying for international patents, Spencer said. The company selected the Philippines, Canada, Australia, Japan and the European Union to submit applications, because of existing aquaculture industries in those countries, he added.

The Philippines has already granted the company’s patent application, he added.

Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc. is planning a 247-acre fish farm on a state leased area of the ocean about 2.6 miles off Malae Point on the North Kohala coast, where it will raise yellowfin tuna. The company has state permits to deploy up to 12 of their oceanspheres, in which the fish will be raised. Spencer said he is still awaiting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to proceed with the project. He’s hoping the federal agency will issue that permit by the end of the summer. Spencer filed the application for that permit in 2009 and amended the application the next year. In May, he said state-level corps officials have indicated support for the project but they are awaiting federal level approvals.

The company formed in 2006 and filed for the U.S. patent in November 2007. It took nearly four years to receive the U.S. patent. At the time that patent was approved, Spencer was hoping to have the company’s first fish harvest some time this year. In April, the Board of Land and Natural Resources granted Hawaii Oceanic Technology an extension to begin construction by October 2015.

Not everyone, especially Kohala residents, is excited about the open ocean aquaculture proposal. About 1,700 people, from Hawaii Island and other parts of the country, have signed petitions stating their opposition to the project. About 400 people wrote to the land board last year asking its members not to grant the company an extension.