Restoring an 800-year-old fishpond to feed the future

Restoring an 800-year-old fishpond to feed the future

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A non-profit in He'eia is trying to restore sustainability to an 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond so that it can once again feed the community.

Paepae o He'eia was established in 2001 and since then it has already restored 3,500 feet of the fishpond wall, but it still has half a mile more to go.

From it's very foundation, the non-profit is rooted in tradition.

"We call it Hawaiian dry stack or uhau humu pohaku, which means to weave the pohaku together to make the wall.  Everything is all on gravity and technique, you cannot just put the rock anyway 'cause you got to watch where the rock going tilt over," explained Peleke Flores,a  Paepae o He'eia employee, as he demonstrated the wall-building technique.

Flores says he luckily has a guide to work with -- existing wall that has remained standing for centuries.

"We're just setting on top of that same spot.  Like following the same footprints that our kupuna went set before us," Flores said.

The work is hard and it takes time.

"The culture only lives in our ability to evolve the practice, so we no scared 'em," said Executive Director Hi'ilei Kawelo.

Kawelo says the organization is motivated by an unwavering mission.

"Restoring something that our kupuna left for us that's 800 years old for a very simple purpose and that's to grow food."

In order to do that they'll have to enclose the 88 acres of brackish water, but first they need to clear the way.

"The mangrove are invasive here.  We're just trying to cut all of this down so we can free up more of the wall 'cause wherever there is mangrove is where the fishpond wall is so that's what our ultimate goal is to get rid of all of it," described Ka'imina'auao Johnson, a Paepae o He'eia intern.

20-thousand square feet of mangrove were removed last year, but there's still much more to go.

"When everybody works together we can achieve great things and that's where the mana comes from is that collective efforts to make something as magnificent as this.  They did it 800 years ago and it unfortunately was left to ruin for a little while but the efforts of Hi'ilei and all of the rest of the Paepae o He'eia crew is restoring that mana back to this place," explained Kelly Ratana, a volunteer from Aotearoa who is working on her Masters at Hawai'i Pacific University in Marine Science.

Officials say it's volunteers, like Ratana and those from the O'ahu Army Natural Resource Program who are making a difference.

"We take pride in knowing that our kupuna built places like this and left them for us to make use of," said Kawelo.

Paepae O He'eia is hosting "Paʻa Pohaku, Kono Iʻa" (fish gather when a firm foundation is set) on Kamehameha Day, Wednesday June 11th at Hula Grill in Waikiki to raise money for its education and restoration efforts.

For more information:

For tickets:

Follow Mileka Lincoln:    

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.