Hawaii fisherman.

Bringing back fish for people in Hawai‘i

Conservation International revives traditional fish pond practices.

© Troy K Shinn/ www.troyshinn.com


As fish pond farmers, our goal is to produce enough fish to share with our community ... 

Keli‘i Kotubetey, from Hawai‘i

28.5 pounds of fish

The average person in Hawai'i eats 28.5 pounds of seafood per year.

63% imported

Of all commercial seafood in Hawai'i, 63% is from non-local sources.

Keli‘i Kotubetey

Keli'i Kotubetey is part of a growing movement to restore Hawai'i’s fish ponds, which once provided millions of pounds of seafood to local communities.

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 Conservation International 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. Conservation International 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.

© Conservation International/photo by S. Kēhaunani Springer

“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 Conservation International 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 Conservation International is a modern representation of laulima — or many hands working together.”


What are fish ponds and how are they used in Hawai’i? Take a closer look and learn more about this traditional — and sustainable — practice from Conservation International’s Luka Mossman.

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