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Episode 57: The restoration of He?eia loko i?a with Hi‘ilei Kawelo

Today there is a movement to restore many of the Hawaiian loko i?a or fishponds that could once be found across the Islands, says Hi?ilei Kawelo, executive director of Paepae o He?eia, an organization dedicated to restoring O?ahu’s He?eia fishpond.

“Our fishpond is part of a network of fishponds called the Hui M?lama Loko ‘Ia. Our hui was formed in 2004 and we’ve grown to represent about forty fishponds. It would be nice to grow that number and the hope is that all of these fishponds will be in production mode.”

The He?eia loko i?a, one of the Islands’ largest, covers an area of eighty-eight acres. Kawelo began her relationship with it when she was a student at UH M?noa. In 2000 she took a class on Hawaiian fishponds and for a semester spent every Saturday working at the fishpond, which was then in disrepair: choked in mangroves, with walls that had crumbled and broken. Kawelo embraced the task of repairing it and she and others have now removed all of the mangroves and restored half of the fishpond wall—3,500 linear feet out of a total of 7,000.

“It’s a big fishpond and a very lengthy kuap? or fishpond wall. So we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we like to look at it as our k?puna put us in positions where we’re challenged—and we always come out on top.”

researcher, writter, and narrator of Aloha Aina. She is currently an editor at Hawai‘i’s largest magazine, Hana Hou!, where she has written and edited numerous award-winning articles about Hawai‘i. She was the founding editor of Honolulu Weekly. She holds a BA in Pacific history and journalism from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa and a JD from Stanford Law School.
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