Aquaculture CEO lambastes environmentalism

By Arlen McCluskey

Aquaculture CEO Bill Spencer says that “pop-up environmentalists” are becoming a “severe threat to economic progress” in Hawaii.

He spoke to about 300 people Wednesday at the “Recovery and Transformation” economic forum, sponsored by ThinkTech Hawaii and the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, HVCA. Spencer’s strong rebuke of environmentalists in Hawaii was followed by accusations that environmentalists’ stated motives are insincere.

In his five-minute speech, Spencer said that “a new breed of environmentalist [is] popping up, nothing like their legitimate counterparts.” He said that environmentalists are interested in attacking capitalism, yet are also “in the business of making money off of unfounded fears.”

Spencer also accused Hawaii environmentalists of resorting to the use of misinformation and “fear mongering.” At one point in his speech, the aquaculture entrepreneur suggested that “big-business” environmentalists had paid a Molokai woman to protest against genetically modified (GMO) corn. Spencer then mimicked the woman in Pidgin, saying, “I no care (about GMO), someone pay me for be here.”

Spencer also lamented the ease of use of online blogs and social networking sites, which he blamed for environmentalists’ success in frustrating development aims.

He warned conference attendees, “We cannot afford to tolerate this kind of wrong-headed activism.” Spencer’s aquaculture venture has found itself the target of criticism by some environmentalists, who claim that fish waste from undersea aquaculture enclosures can result in point-source water pollution. In an interview during the event’s first break, Spencer challenged claims that his aquaculture venture plans to use fish feed that contains polluting substances.

In the interview, Spencer also expressed skepticism about broader environmental issues, declaring that the effects of global climate change would not be felt “for millions and millions of years.” He added, however, that overfishing is an environmental concern in need of attention, and that aquaculture is one important way of addressing this.

The economic forum took place on August 25 at The Plaza Club in downtown Honolulu. It featured more than 20 guest speakers, most of whom were given five minutes to speak.