Fishpond funds exceed expectations

Text Will Caron

In December of 2014, Paepae o He‘eia launched the Pani ka Puka ("Closing the Gap") campaign to raise the funds and volunteer hours needed to fix a large hole in the He‘eia fishpond’s 800 year-old wall, which has rendered the fishpond unusable for aquaculture for the past 50 years. The goal of the campaign was to raise $100,000 needed for the repairs, as well as to mobilize hundreds of volunteers in the community to assist with the physical labor needed to fix the wall by the end of 2015. Earlier this week, Paepae o He‘eia announced that they have exceeded their goal thanks to generous donations from the community and local businesses, as well as with grants from HEI Charitable Foundation, Matson Foundation, Atherton Family Foundation, Cooke Foundation, Friends of Hawaii Charities, Patagonia and the Koaniani Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.

“Paepae o Heʻeia would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers, contributors, donors, businesses and grantors for their overwhelming support of our Pani ka Puka campaign,” said Hi‘ilei Kawelo, Executive Director of Paepae o He‘eia. “We've successfully reached and surpassed our financial target of $100,000 to fix this 50-year old puka in Heʻeia fishpondʻs wall. We've always had our sights on a future of sustainable seafood production utilizing the ingenuity of our ancestors, but now we can truly taste it!”

On May 2, 1965, devastating rains led to flash-flooding in Heʻeia, and the waters washed out a more than 200-foot puka (hole) in the ancient wall, leaving the pond unusable for aquaculture. The puka in the wall allows desirable fish, such as mullet and milkfish, to swim out of the pond, and also allows predatory fish, such as barracuda or papio, to swim into the pond. The puka is like an open drain and the pond becomes shallow at low tides making it dangerous for the existing fish and sea life. The fishpond will not function as it should until the traditional infrastructure is restored.

This fundraising support from the community has kept the project on target to be completed by the end of December of 2015, at which point the puka in the fishpond wall will be closed. Work remaining to be done includes finishing the new mākāhā (sluice gate), constructing a driving/ walking bridge to cross over the mākāhā, and installing a hale kiaʻi (guard house).

Once the Pani ka Puka project is complete, Paepae o He‘eia will continue its maintenance and restoration work of the fishpond, including removing invasive mangrove and restoring other sections of the wall. The organization anticipates much effort will be needed to put towards the management of predator fish and removal of invasive algae when the puka is closed. This will assist with efforts to increase the production of herbivorous fish, which are the traditional fish harvested in Hawaiian fishpond culture.

Paepae o Heʻeia is a private non-profit organization established in 2001 and dedicated to caring for Heʻeia Fishpond, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond located in Heʻeia Uli, Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu. Paepae o Heʻeia was established to mālama Heʻeia fishpond and serve as kiaʻi to the precious resource and treasure. It is one of three cultural restoration projects in Heʻeia explored in-depth by Naomi Sodetani in her feature "Konohiki Calling." Look for the piece in Summit's upcoming Issue 1.1, available this month, to learn more.

Photos by Will Caron


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