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May, 2009:

More Ahi Please

You can not pile too much ahi — the Hawaiian name for tuna — on my plate. I love the stuff: raw, grilled, wrapped in rice and nori and served as sushi, marinated in soy and spice and served as poke, crusted with macadamia nuts and coconut and topped with a little mango sauce … I swear I am turning into a big drooling mess just thinking about it.

But overfishing is depleting tuna stocks, just like it’s depleting so many of our dinner-bound, ocean-dwelling populations, driving up the price and making for scarce supply.

A tentative hooray, then, for this proposal to try offshore tuna farming. “If successful,” the AP’s Audrey McAvoy writes, “the startup could blaze the way toward the environmentally sound farming of one of the world’s most in-demand sushi ingredients. But the potential challenges are significant, highlighting the difficulty of relying on farmed fish.”

It’s not a perfect solution — the project is already under scrutiny from fish huggers. Peter Bridson, aquaculture (that’s fish farming to you and me) manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is concerned about how much fish Hawaii Oceanic would need to feed its livestock. From the AP story:

Tuna is a carnivorous fish, high on the marine food chain, and they must eat large volumes of sardines and other smaller fish to grow. Maintaining a tuna farm may add to the pressures on wild stocks of other fish.

Hawaii Oceanic plans to feed its bigeye fish meal. But fish meal itself is made from ground-up wild fish, and has the potential to pressure wild fish stocks.

“You kind of have to come back to the whole debate on whether these fish are the right thing for us humans to be eating,” said Bridson. “There are lots of other things which have a lower impact in terms of how they are farmed.”

There’s already a fish farm off the Kona coast that grows a trademarked “Kona Kampachi” — yellowtail tuna. But it’s struggling with profitability, and there are also environmental and legal problems, according to this West Hawaii Today report that ran in March of this year.

I’d like to see both operations find a way to be successful and environmentally sound for the most selfish and personal reason: because I’m hungry. Ahi and soy sauce and oh, can I have some of that grilled pineapple salsa, too? Ahi tastes like Hawaii to me and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

* Update: June 1, 2009, 12:01 p.m.

Two corrections:

1) Yellowtail isn’t a tuna. It’s a cousin to hamachi, in the amberjack family.

2) The Kona Blue project has, so far, proven environmentally sound. Initial studies showed “no significant impact based on several things, including the absence of irrevocable loss or destruction of resources, compliance with the state’s long-term environmental policies encouraging sustainable use of marine resources and preserving water quality.” (Again, from West Hawaii Today.)

Lantern Floating for Memorial Day

If the pictures are anything to go by, the Memorial Day Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu was the kind of visual feast that makes you think you’re in a dream.

2,000 candlelit lanterns are sent off into the ocean at sunset, each bearing “healing prayers for victims of conflict, famine, disaster and disease as well as our hopes for the happiness of all past and present.”

The Hawaiian tradition is based on the Japanese ceremony, Toro Nagashi — the lanterns are supposed to help guide the the dead back to wherever it is we come from. It must be touching to stand so close to Pearl Harbor and watch the bay fill with those small lights.

There’s a short documentary coming out about the ceremony called “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky” — there’s a very pretty trailer on the producer’s website and some beautiful images in the Lantern Floating Hawaii Flickr pool.

Hanalei Is America’s Best Beach: Really?

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

OK, it’s a beautiful crescent of golden sand. It’s wide and clean and almost aggressively picturesque. There’s no denying that it’s an archetype of what a perfect beach should be. And it was recently selected as the “Number One Beach in the US” by Dr. Beach, a self-declared beach expert. He seems to have gained quite the cred; my Google alerts are crowded with mentions of Hanalei Beach’s new “honor.”

But I’ll take this diagnosis with a grain of salt — or maybe sand would be more appropriate? Here’s why: I think that selecting a “best beach” is dependent on what you want to do when you’re on that beach. For watching the pounding surf, sprawling in the sun, strolling at sunset hand in hand with the object of your affections, generally wallowing in a state of tropical lethargy, Hanalei is indeed fantastic.

But my favorite beach happens to be right here in Washington. It’s the always breathtaking Ruby Beach, on the Olympic Peninsula. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, I’m always blown away — sometimes literally, if the wind is up — by the unreal rugged landscape, the sea life exposed at low tide, the staggering power of the gray Pacific. I also have a very soft spot in my heart for the beach in Santa Cruz, California, for the kitschy boardwalk, the rattle of the rare wooden roller coaster, the smell of the sea mixed with popcorn and tanning oil and corn dogs. And I’m sure there are vicious advocates for the Jersey Shore or the Gulf Coast.

Is Hanalei America’s “best” beach? It might be the best tropical beach but for me, there’s an emotional undercurrent that solidifies a beach in my affections. That’s not as measurable as water temperature or wave size, but it’s just as critical.