You might notice the circular outlines in the water when flying over the island or perhaps see portions of the rock walls while driving along the coast. These are the numerous fishponds, which line the southern shores of Molokai. Na Molokai fishponds were once a vital element to the Hawaiian way of life, with Molokai as the breadbasket of the islands where canoes would stop to replenish their supplies.
These ancient ponds were constructed by stacking rocks together in a dry stack, without any cement, which creates oxygen and acts as a natural aerator. It keeps the larger fish inside the pond while allowing the small fish and seawater to flow in and out with the tide changes.
One pond is the Alii Fish Pond, which is just less than 30 acres.
Referred to as a “living sacred site,” the Alii Fish Pond was built in the 15th century using thousands of rocks, which were hand carried from the other side of the island. Although time and invasive mangrove have taken their toll on this once vital fishpond, the non-profit Ka Honua Momona is working towards complete restoration. Kauwila Hanchett, administrative director of Ka Honua Momona, said it is a “sense of joining hands with our ancestors to make a better place for generations to come.”
When Ka Honua Momona first started working on the fishpond, the mangrove was so thick you couldn’t see into the pond. They have successfully removed large portions of the mangrove as well as rebuilding the 2,700-foot wall, planting native limu and removing the silt. The efforts of the non-profit along with locals, visitors and various youth groups contribute to over 10,000 volunteer hours a year. Kauwila Hanchett says, “We are restoring. We want to feed our community.”
Everyone is welcome to help, as long as staff is contacted prior to arrival, to work together to repair this important Hawaiian icon.
For more information on Ka Honua Momona and the Na Molokai Fishponds, please visit: http://www.kahonuamomona.org/