Early Hawaiians had sophisticated fish pond aquaculture systems centuries before the arrival of Europeans.
“It took an entire ahupua‘a (traditional Hawaiian land division with hundreds of people) to build a fish pond,” explains Keli‘i Kotubetey, a native Hawaiian and longtime fish pond practitioner. Using the values and teachings of his ancestors, he’s working with CI to make fish pond revival a viable economic resource for his community.
“First we must re-establish healthy ecosystems that can support fish production in the ponds after centuries of neglect,” says Kotubetey. Filling the ponds with fish, however, is not enough. Because they sit in the coastal zone, the ponds are subject to many regulations and a complex permitting process. CI has worked with fish pond supporters at the state and federal levels to remove policy barriers and streamline the administrative process to lessen the burden.
“As fish pond farmers, our goal is to produce enough fish to share with our community,” says Kotubetey. “Unfortunately, the process from restoration to permitting to production is very costly. We’re thankful that CI is helping us develop good business models that help us achieve the production we need to support our community food goals. Our strong partnership with CI is a modern representation of laulima — or many hands working together.”