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Participants honored the importance of water flowing from the mountains to the shoreline. Photo credit: Brenda Asuncion

More than 170 guests, including representatives from 10 Pacific Northwest tribes and many more from across the globe, gathered in Heʻeia, Oʻahu, hosted by local stewardship organizations Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi and Paepae o Heʻeia, to learn about Native Hawaiian aquaculture practices in February. The University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program has been a long-time partner and supporter of the Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa and Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo, the backbone organization that coordinates and facilitates the Hui.

people working in fishpond
Gathering participants contributed to kuapā work at Heʻeia fishpond. Photo credit: Scott Kanda

This event was part of an annual gathering of fishpond practitioners from across the Hawaiian Islands through the Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa, a collective of kiaʻi loko (fishpond practitioners) who seek to leverage their shared skills, knowledge and resources to address common goals.

The 2020 Gathering included a full day of restoring the rock wall and learning about the history and function of Heʻeia Fishpond, as well as a visit to the upper forested lands of the Heʻeia ahupuaʻa, the source of the vital freshwater that feeds Heʻeia wetlands, taro patches and the fishpond.

The final day was spent visiting and engaging in collaborative restoration work at several other fishponds around Oʻahu including Waikalua Loko, Loko Ea, Paʻaiau, Kapapapuhi and Pāhonu. Throughout the gathering, participants shared stories and made first-time connections.

As a result of the gathering, cross-Pacific partnerships grew in exponential ways, with new ideas and discoveries shared between students, fisheries managers, biologists and elders from Alaska, Hawaiʻi, Oregon, Washington, Canada, New Zealand and beyond.

By Cindy Knapman

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