Kaneohe Fishpond Caretakers Challenged By Repairs, Thefts

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Taking a break from their workday Nov. 22 at centuries-old Waikalua Loko Fishpond are Hawaiian Electric Co. volunteers (from left) Luella Suffrin, Laverne Cummins, Donna Mey-ers (retiree), Ian Meyers, Luana Baker and Gay Nakagawa, while hardworking HECO employee Scott Kuwabara

Stewards of two ancient Kaneohe fishponds are appealing to the public this month to kokua their separate causes.

• The 800-year-old He‘eia Fishpond, cared for since 2001 by the nonprofit Paepae o He‘eia, launched a $100,000 fundraising campaign Dec. 3 — “Pani ka Puka” — to complete key repairs to its wall by the end of next year. An 80-foot gap remains from the 1965 flood that opened the pond to outside predator fish (barracuda, papio) and halted the harvesting of desirable ones (mullet and milkfish).

“Fishponds are the original example of sustainable aquaculture,” stated Paepae o He‘eia executive director Hi‘ilei Kawelo, “and the hope is that this pond will be able to provide a source of healthy and sustainable protein for our families and communities again.” Noting that Oahu has fewer than a dozen usable fishponds left, she called the campaign an opportunity to preserve and pass on the tradition to the next generation.

The project to “close the puka” will require countless hours of volunteer labor to move and dry-stack rocks and coral to fill the gap in the traditional way, without using mortar or machinery. A sluice gate, guard house and walking bridge also are planned. Checks payable to Paepae o He‘eia are welcome at P.O. Box 6355, Kaneohe, HI 96744. For more information, visit paepaeoheeia.org.

• Further south on Kaneohe Bay is the 400- year-old Waikalua Loko Fishpond, cared for by Waikalua Loko I‘a Fishpond Preservation Society since 1995. Staff discovered $4,000 worth of equipment — its entire inventory — stolen from its tool shed sometime between Dec. 13 and 15. According to operations manager Roslyn Dias, the thieves took weed-whackers, pruners, chainsaws, axes, small picks, the lock to the shed and more — all marked “WLFPS” and used by volunteers on restoration workdays. The next public work party is set for Feb. 21, 2015. Any leads on this theft can be sent to Roslyn Dias at rosalyn.dias@gmail.com.

Though it’s not currently cultivating fish, WLFPS staff and volunteers work to maintain and restore the pond, much as the He‘eia group does. Located on the bay near Puohala Elementary School, the program’s ultimate goal is to keep the pond open as an educational resource for area schools on ancient and modern fishpond practices. Students from Castle High School also come twice a week to perform research and remove invasive plants.

A group of 100 Saint Louis School students and other groups also are scheduled after winter break.

“We’re going to have to rethink this,” admitted Dias. “We’re scrambling around for tools right now, as we only have a few loppers (pruners) left.”

Donations of tools and money from the public are welcome. For more information, visit waikalu-alokofishpond.org.