If you have visited Halulu Fishpond (Kaua’i) in the past two years, you may have seen what looks like islands of plants within the water. These islands are actually floating rafts covered with native vegetation, and they were part of a project designed to suck up excess nutrients to prevent runoff into the ocean. Through this project, Hawaii Wildlife Tours, in partnership with the Waipā Foundation, has been able to involve students and volunteers in learning about the diverse stream life that associates with these floating rafts, such as ‘ōpae, ‘o ‘opu, nene, hapawai and many other Hawaiian birds and invertebrates.
Funding for the project came from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, through the Hawai‘i Fish Habitat Partnership. This partnership aims to improve and enhance fisheries habitat, and Halulu Fishpond and the adjacent stream provided a unique site to conduct trials and refinement of the raft systems. These systems are also referred to as pu‘uhonua, which means place of refuge and sanctuary.
The official project term is wrapping up, but according to project lead Dr. Carl Berg, there is still a lot of opportunity for other fishponds and stream restoration projects to use this technique. The first transfer of this knowledge to another fishpond occurred at Loko Ea in early October, and they now have 5 pu‘uhonua floating in their loko i‘a.
There are still supplies available to set up other systems, and Carl is willing to share data and teach how to set up new pu‘uhonua. “It’s a great project for kids because they’re able to pick up and count and measure things like ‘ōpae and ‘o‘opu, and there’s a lot of learning about native plants and animals and how they grow together,” says Carl. “And the main idea is so we can enjoy and eat fish.”
If you’re interested in setting up pu‘uhonua at your loko i‘a or in a stream restoration project, contact Brenda@kuahawaii.org.