HPU completes merger to bring Oceanic Institute formally into the university

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HONOLULU – Leaders of Hawaiʻi Pacific University and Oceanic Institute today announced their long-awaited merger, making the acclaimed 53-year-old research center a formal part of the state’s largest private university.

Completed on Jan. 1, the merger followed review and approval from the State of Hawaiʻi through the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources and the Dept. of the Attorney General, as well as recent separate votes in support of the new relationship by the respective governing boards of OI and HPU. Leaders of OI and HPU met Monday with staff members of the Oceanic Institute to begin the process of transitioning them into the university.  


“This is a merger that makes great sense for both OI and HPU,” said HPU President Geoffrey Bannister. “Oceanic Institute’s successes in integrating and leveraging the research of various departments within the institute will help to inspire additional multi-disciplinary research within the university. HPU will benefit through the ability of faculty and students throughout the university to study and conduct research at OI.

“The result of all of this will be strengthened research, service and learning capabilities to address questions of great importance to Hawaiʻi and to many others around the world.”   

The HPU Oceanic Institute has a growing reputation internationally for its work in aquaculture, especially shrimp husbandry and fin fish breeding. OI is believed to be home to the largest collection of shrimp pedigree and breeding performance data in the world. Its “Specific Pathogen Free” shrimp broodstock are at the heart of agreements that OI has entered into with countries and companies around the Pacific Rim and Asia to help develop shrimp breeding programs there.

OI breakthroughs in 2013 in breeding Yellow Tang and Clownfish are the latest developments in its fin fish work. Those points of progress will help meet the needs of an ornamental fish industry that highly values both species while also helping to protect Hawaiʻi reefs, where wild specimens are often harvested.

The institute is also developing a reputation for its work in feed development, including creation of a feed mill in Hilo that is facilitating development of experimental feeds both for aquaculture and land-based agriculture. Possibilities for the latter are of great interest throughout Hawaiʻi, where the high costs of feed have decimated livestock operations in recent years.

“The special research capacities we have developed at Oceanic Institute are of keen interest to a growing number of concerns in the United States and in nations literally around the world,” said Shaun Moss, president of HPU OI. “Our new status as a university-wide institute within HPU will help us to deepen those capacities and to form new relationships with other concerns that have interest in our work. This merger is clearly a win/win for all involved.”

Oceanic Institute traces its roots to 1960 when the State of Hawaiʻi leased land to the Pacific Foundation for Marine Research to develop an institute for marine education, marine science and ocean industry. Initially known as the Makapuʻu Oceanic Center, it became the Oceanic Institute in 1972.

OI became an affiliate of HPU in 2003. Today, the institute employs about 50 scientists, technicians and support workers, who are now employees of the university.

Hawai‘i Pacific University is the state’s largest private university with 7,000 students from the United States and more than 80 foreign nations. HPU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the Council on Social Work Education and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.