Experiment seeks to fill Hawaiian fishponds with mullet

Heeia fishpond first to try raising hatchery spawned mullet.

Experiment seeks to fill Hawaiian fishponds with mullet

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Heeia fishpond a two-year experiment to increase mullet production is underway.

Growing the fish stock fits with Paepae o Heeia's long-range plan to re-vitalize the ancient site.

"We're aiming to feed people. That's what this fishpond was built for," fishpond caretaker Kelii Kotubetey said.

Heeia fishpond is about 800 years old and the size of it covers about 88 acres.

Some wild mullet enters the site and spawns.

“Our mullet are alive and well inside our fishpond, the general population,” Kotubetey said.

But he adds there's room for many more of the sought after fish.

So Heeia and fishponds on Molokai and the Big Island partnered with Hawaii Pacific University's Oceanic Institute.

"This project is looking at seeding the fishponds with hatchery produced mullet in order to get the inner workings of the fishponds working again," Oceanic Institute's Chad Callan said.

Earlier this summer HPU gave Heeia hundreds of young mullet from its mullet hatchery. About 300 went into the fishpond's small nursery pond.

Kotubetey said the results were disappointing.

“Some of them started to die. We released some,” Kotubetey said. “It was a matter of just learning how many to stock in our nursery pond, the environmental parameters and conditions.”

The next step is to get more mullet from Oceanic Institute, only this time they’ll be younger and smaller.

"We'll start slow and easy again next year, next spring, and really really try and take care of those babies and grow them up and give them the best chance to stay alive," Kotubetey said.

Success at Heeia Fishpond could breathe new life into other old Hawaiian fishponds.

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