19 July 2024
Fish ponds boost Hawaiʻi's sustainability

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Fish Ponds: A Key to Sustainable Food in Hawaiʻi

In a world where food sustainability is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, particularly in island communities like Hawaiʻi, the revival of Indigenous aquaculture systems known as loko iʻa, or fish ponds, presents a promising solution. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) sheds light on the potential of fish ponds to increase the local seafood supply and support fisheries both within and outside the ponds. This study, published in the journal Ecosphere, highlights the unique capabilities of loko iʻa in enhancing food sustainability in Hawaiʻi.

The historical significance of loko iʻa lies in their ability to not only produce surplus fish within the ponds but also act as nursery grounds that support fish populations in the surrounding estuaries. Lead author Anne Innes-Gold, a marine biology Ph.D. candidate, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the role of loko iʻa in boosting local seafood production. While aquaculture currently contributes less than 1% of Hawaiʻi’s locally available seafood, the revitalization of loko iʻa has the potential to significantly increase the supply of seafood that is crucial for the island’s food security.

The Uniqueness of Indigenous Aquaculture Systems in Hawaiʻi

One of the key aspects that sets loko iʻa apart from other aquaculture systems is their unique design, which is exclusive to Hawaiʻi and boasts high productivity and biodiversity. Historically, these Indigenous aquaculture systems yielded nearly 2 million pounds of fish annually, with hoaʻāina (land tenants) and kiaʻi (caretakers) managing them using a sustainable approach of “take what you need.” However, the 20th century saw the destruction of most loko iʻa, with only a few remaining operational by 1994.

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The revival of Indigenous aquaculture systems, such as loko iʻa, represents a crucial step towards maintaining and increasing seafood supplies sustainably. Innes-Gold underscores the significance of restoring these systems, especially in a global context where aquaculture plays an increasingly important role in meeting seafood demands. The success story of the Heʻeia Fishpond on Windward Oʻahu, managed by the Native Hawaiian nonprofit Paepae o Heʻeia, exemplifies how the restoration of loko iʻa can align Indigenous knowledge with modern management practices to promote cultural sustainability and community well-being.

Benefits of Restoring Loko iʻa for Community Resilience

Beyond enhancing local food production, the restoration of loko iʻa and related Indigenous aquaculture systems offers a myriad of benefits for communities in Hawaiʻi. By providing a space for community members to connect with the land (ʻāina), practice reciprocity, and engage in cultural education, loko iʻa serve as more than just sources of food. They become hubs for fostering community resilience, nourishing both bodies and minds in a holistic manner.

The restoration of loko iʻa not only contributes to food sustainability but also fosters a deeper connection between people and the environment. As individuals engage in the stewardship of these aquaculture systems, they gain a greater appreciation for the interconnectedness of ecosystems and human well-being. This holistic approach to food production and cultural preservation exemplifies the potential of loko iʻa to serve as pillars of community resilience in the face of environmental challenges.

Looking Towards the Future: Climate Change and Loko iʻa Sustainability

As we confront the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and food production, the role of loko iʻa in promoting sustainability becomes even more critical. Innes-Gold and her team are gearing up to simulate potential climate change effects on loko iʻa systems, highlighting the importance of adapting these Indigenous aquaculture practices to changing environmental conditions. By integrating traditional knowledge with scientific research, loko iʻa can evolve to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world while preserving their cultural significance.

The future of food sustainability in Hawaiʻi rests, in part, on the revitalization of loko iʻa and the integration of Indigenous aquaculture systems into contemporary food production practices. By recognizing the value of these traditional systems and investing in their restoration, Hawaiʻi can not only enhance its local seafood supply but also promote cultural resilience and community well-being. The journey towards sustainable food systems in Hawaiʻi begins with honoring the wisdom of the past and embracing the potential of Indigenous aquaculture for a more resilient and thriving future.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/SA-11.pdf 2. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/aquaculture-hawaii-sustainable-seafood-production 3. https://www.hawaii.edu/news/2022/06/22/fish-ponds-hawaii-food-security/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Fish ponds, Aquaculture, Indigenous aquaculture

Fish pond
A fish pond or fishpond is a controlled pond, small artificial lake or retention basin that is stocked with fish and is used in aquaculture for fish farming, for recreational fishing, or for ornamental purposes. Fish ponds are a classical garden feature in East Asian residence, such as the Classical...
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Aquaculture (less commonly spelled aquiculture), also known as aquafarming, is the controlled cultivation ("farming") of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae and other organisms of value such as aquatic plants (e.g. lotus). Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater, brackish water and saltwater populations under controlled or semi-natural conditions, and can...
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Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The Indigenous peoples of the Americas are groups of people native to a specific region that inhabited the Americas before the arrival of European settlers in the 15th century and the ethnic groups who continue to identify themselves with those peoples. The Indigenous peoples of the Americas are diverse; some...
Read more: Indigenous peoples of the Americas

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