CEESP SC & Restoration of Hawaiian Fish Ponds

CEESP member Kevin Chang and member of Kualoa-He’eia Ecumenical Youth Project, together with CEESP Co-Chair of TILCEPA Trisha Kehaulani Watson, organised a field trip to the three communities involved with the restoration of fish ponds from watershed to wetlands to the He’eia fishponds on the windward side of Oahu.

Established in 2001 by a group of young Hawaiian, Papae o He’eia works in partnership with landowner Kamehameha Schools to manage and maintain the fishpond for the community.

CEESP SC at the He’eia fishponds.

Hawaiian fishponds are unique and advanced forms of aquaculture found nowhere else in the world.  The techniques of herding or trapping adult fish with rocks in shallow tidal areas is found elsewhere but the six styles of Hawaiian fishponds, especially large walled ponds, were technologically advanced and efficient as their purpose was to cultivate pua, baby fish, to maturity.  Their invention was a result of the Hawaiians deep understanding of the environmental processes specific to the Hawaiian Islands as well as their connection and observation of the food resources.
The experience of visiting and spending time with the people involved in the restoration of this traditional aquaculture system was inspirational. From the watersheds to the wetlands to the actual fishponds, we witnessed a holistic biocultural conservation and development project in action. A few weeks after the SC meeting visited, a huge community voluntary effort

In May, 1965 a devastating flood destroyed over 200 feet of the He’eia fishpond wall rendering it inoperable. 50 years later, on December 13th 2015, with a massive outpouring of community voluntary help, a continuous line of over 1500 community members, spanning 1700 feet of wall and moving over 900 buckets of rocks and fronds, that breach was finally closed.  Local sources said that “a community gathering of that magnitude had not been seen in Hawaii for over 200 years.”  

As well as the He’eia fishpond, members of the CEESP ‘People in Nature’ network also visited the Kiholo fish ponds on Hawaii Island organised by CEESP SC member and Chair of the Specialist Group on Customary & Environmental Law Kristen Walker Painemilla together with Jack Kittinger & Kehau Spinger (CI Hawaii).  The site is an estuary and includes two large, interconnected freshwater spring-fed pools containing numerous native fish species. A 200-foot-long stone channel, connects the ponds to Kīholo Bay, which has a resident population of green sea turtles that use the inland ponds to feed and rest.  For native Hawaiians, Kīholo is a culturally important site, especially for those who continue to live in the vicinity and trace their ancestry back to the land.
Aroha Mead, Kevin Chang, Ulalia Woodside

Work area: 
Social Policy
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