Kū Hou Kuapā literally means to “Let the Wall Rise Again”. This program is responsible for all of the restoration and rehabilitation of the kuapā – fishpond wall – and the fishpond contained within it. The goal of this program is to restore the ancient wall in order to preserve the integrity of the fishpond and support our unique cultural, educational, and aquacultural programs.
Kuapā is the Hawaiian word referring to the fishpond wall. The root word of kuapā is “kua” meaning backbone or support. This is fitting as the kuapā is the backbone of our fishpond and is the very essence of Hawaiian fishponds. He‘eia Fishpond is a loko kuapā – walled fishpond – with a unique 7,000 foot wall that completely encircles the pond.
Step one in the restoration process at He’eia Fishpond is removal of the introduced and invasive mangrove. Several species of mangrove exist in Hawai`i but the most prevalent on our kuapā is Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) which grows in thick forests with tangles of aerial roots. Introduced to the He‘eia wetlands in approximately 1922 to control erosion and stabilize sediment, mangrove spread quickly through all parts of the fishpond and accelerated the process of silt buildup. Also, as the plant grows within the wall, its many aerial roots loosen the rocks and coral destroying its structural integrity.
Mangrove removal efforts began in the late 1990’s with the former lessee, Mary Brooks, and students from UH-Manoā. Paepae o He‘eia began removing mangrove in earnest in 2001 with simple handsaws, loppers, and later chainsaws. Literally thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of labor hours has gone into the removal of mangrove over the years. As of 2012, we have physically removed mangrove from approximately 2,000 feet of the 7,000 foot long kuapā.
Step two in the restoration process involves working with the original materials which create the kuapā – pohaku pele (volcanic rock) and ko`a (coral). All invasive plants such as mangrove, pluchea, pickleweed, and other weeds are removed to expose the bare wall. In some areas, the wall is broken down to the niho (foundation) stones and in other areas only one or two rocks have fallen off the top.
The method of Hawaiian dry-stack wall building is called Uhau Humu Pohaku and utilizes no mortar to keep the wall upright and intact. Wall sections in need of repair are restacked with pohaku pele on the outer edges to protect against wind and waves and the inner portions are filled with ko’a. The most impressive part of this process is imagining the line of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people passing the very rocks we touch from the valleys to the shoreline to create the kuapā.
Invasive Seaweed Removal
Once the wall is returned to a functioning state, other restorative activities can take place to improve the environment within the pond. One such important activity is the removal of invasive limu (seaweed). The reef adjacent to He‘eia Fishpond is blanketed by mainly three species of invasive limu: Kappaphycus, Acanthophora spicifera, and Gracilaria salicornia. Each invasive limu has a unique story of introduction to Hawaii’s waters but, most importantly, fragments of these limu float into the pond at high tides and then grow abundantly.
Paepae o He’eia has removed limu since 2004 with the help of community partners such as The Nature Conservancy, Hawaii Department of Aquatic Resources, Oahu Invasive Species Council, and countless individual volunteers. Between 2004 and 2012, Paepae o He‘eia removed 50 tons of invasive limu from He‘eia Fishpond. The invasive limu is gathered by hand or net and placed into large bags. Finally the limu is used by our mauka partners as fertilizer on their lo’i kalo, uala patches, or any other type of garden.
Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke Internship
Made possible by support from Kamehameha Schools, Paepae o He‘eia offers paid internships to youth and young adults during the summer. The Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke Internship provides a unique opportunity to work outdoors and learn skills important to restore, preserve and protect the resources within the ahupua‘a. Majority of the work will take place at He‘eia Fishpond but huakaʻi (field trips) to other Koʻolaupoko sites will also help to nurture the mauka/makai ahupua‘a relationship. Work activities will include fishpond restoration and aquaculture activities but may also incorporate lo‘i (taro terrace) restoration, reforestation, and huaka`i to various mauka sites. In addition to physical work, participants will gain knowledge about wahi pana (place names) and cultural sites within Ko‘olaupoko, native and non-native plant and animal species, and get to experience new people and places.