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Community of Seaweed Conservationists Want State to Recognize 'Year of the Limu'

Community groups dedicated to restoring limu, or seaweed, along Hawai?i’s shorelines are hoping they haven’t missed the window of opportunity to designate 2022 the Year of the Limu.

A request for the designation stalled in the state legislature this session, and now limu lovers are calling on Gov. David Ige to revive it.

Wally Ito, a 68-year-old fisherman, scours the shoreline for limu at One?ula Beach in ‘Ewa. The best time to go is when the tide is receding so the limu gets caught on the reef. 

Credit Ku?uwehi Hiraishi
Wally Ito scours the shoreline for limu in ‘Ewa

"Look, look, look. Here’s manauwea. We got lipoa, wawaeiole, and ‘a?ala?ula," he said, standing on the shore.

Limu was once so abundant here that the area was called the House of Limu. Limu was an integral part of the Hawaiian diet. It was used for medicine and ceremony.

Back in the 60s, it would wash up in piles on the sand, some two-feet high. But limu beds began to disappear by the late 90s.

"Limu is the base of the marine food chain. If we want to restore the fishery, it's learning about why we lost the limu, and try to bring the limu back," Ito said.

Ito spent more than a decade raising awareness about limu’s ecological, nutritional, and cultural significance. He follows in the footsteps of limu expert, the late Henry Chang Wo who organized monthly limu plantings in ‘Ewa and fought for the state’s first limu management area in Pu?uloa.

"He felt that one of his main purposes was to warn people to take care of their area, to take care of their ahupua?a, to ensure that what happened at ‘Ewa doesn't happen in their place," Ito told Hawaii Public Radio.

Ito now leads the Limu Hui, a statewide network of more than 60 community members on nearly every island working to restore limu along their coastlines.

"It's a growing movement and so this “Year of Limu” thing was important for us to continue creating awareness. All we ask is the state to recognize that limu was important and what we are doing is important."

The Limu Hui is urging Gov. Ige to use his executive powers to declare 2022 the Year of the Limu.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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