He’eia Fishpond — O'ahu, Hawai'i
Fishponds are a traditional method of aquaculture used to grow Gorilla ogo seaweed. Hawaiian fishponds are unique because they are built with rock into especially large walled ponds. By allowing both fresh and salt water to enter the pond, a brackish environment is created that is productive for growing seaweed. Harvesters will remove seaweed mats by hand from the pond throughout the year in order to maintain and open water surface and enhance fish growth in the pond.
Fishponds are constructed of rock walls and are used to herd or trap adult fish, grow juveniles to maturity and farm shellfish and seaweed in shallow tidal areas. The compact style of wall construction slows water flow, allowing the pond to maintain a base water level even at the lowest tides and forcing more water to through sluice gates. Hawaiians invented fishponds to provide a regular supply of fish, shellfish and seaweeds in their traditional diet.
Located in He’eia Uli on the island of Oahu, He’eia Fishpond is a walled (kuapā) style fishpond enclosing 88 acres of brackish water. The kuapā is built on the Malauka`a fringing reef that extends from the shoreline surrounding the pond out into Kāne`ohe Bay. Built approximately 600 to 800 years ago, the kuapā is possibly the longest in the island chain measuring about 1.3 miles long and forms a complete circle around the pond. This is unique as most other fishpond walls are either straight lines or half circles connecting one point of shoreline to another. Not only is the kuapā extremely long, it is 12 to 15 feet wide.
Because fishponds are located at the intersection of the ocean and land, they are heavily regulated by a variety of federal, state and local agencies. A number of measures address cultural and environmental conservation for fishponds:
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The He’eia Fishpond is managed by Paepae o He’eia, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for the fishpond. Established in 2001 by a group of young Hawaiians, Paepae o He’eia works in partnership with landowner, Kamehameha Schools, to manage and maintain He’eia Fishpond for the community. Fishponds are heavily regulated with up to 17 permits required before restoration or construction work can start on a fishpond. Some of the main regulatory agencies include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.
The He’eia Fishpond is located next to the sea and is nourished with a mixture of fresh and salt water. This mixture creates a brackish environment. Shallow water depth, maximum sunlight radiation, circulation from tidal and stream flows, nutrients from the runoff of water and other organic materials create a highly productive, estuary-type environment which is perfect for growing seaweed and herbivore fish.