Loko i‘a, Hawaiian fishponds, are unique aquaculture systems that exist throughout Hawai‘i, and continue to feed and connect communities around the islands. The Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa (Hui) is a growing network of fishpond practitioners and organizations from across ka paeʻāina o Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian archipelago). The Hui was formed as an opportunity for practitioners to empower each other and leverage their skills, knowledge and resources related to restoration and management of loko iʻa (traditional Hawaiian fishponds). The Hui has met opportunistically since 2004. In 2013, KUA received a grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Conservation International’s Hawai‘i Fish Trust to support the Hui in building its operational structure and overall capacity. In May 2014, KUA facilitated the largest-ever gathering in Hāna on the island of Maui, a place where fishponds and other significant fishing practices originated.
Loko i‘a are important components of the ahupua‘a (traditional land stewardship framework) that contribute to a healthy and robust food system. They are unique aquaculture systems that exist throughout Hawai‘i, and were developed to optimize natural patterns of watersheds, nutrient cycles, and fish biology. There are six general types of loko i‘a.
488 fishpond sites were identified in the last statewide survey (DHM 1990). Among these 488 loko i‘a sites, many are in degraded conditions, sometimes completely beyond repair or unrecognizable as fishponds. However, for the sites that are partially intact, there are communities and stewardship groups who actively restore or have expressed interest in reviving the integrity and productivity of these places. Over the years, the number of participants and fishponds represented in the Hui has increased. The network currently includes over 38 fishponds and complexes, with over 100 fishpond owners, workers, supporters, and stakeholders. The Hui is driven by loko iʻa practitioners and over the next year, KUA will continue to facilitate their collective discussions and work. Reference: DHM Planners Inc., Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Applied Research Group, Public Archaeology Section and Moon, O’Connor, Tam & Yuen. Hawaiian Fishpond Study: Islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi and Kauaʻi. Honolulu: DHM Planners, 1990.