Volunteers preserve ancient Heeia fishpond

One of the largest ancient Native Hawaiian fishponds in the state was nearly destroyed because of neglect.

Thanks volunteers it is alive again.

This is the process involved in transforming this historic Windward Oahu pond.

It’s hard to believe this fish pond was once dilapidated and in disrepair.

“This very beautiful place was completely overgrown and overrun with invasive mangrove walls were falling apart,” Hiilei Kawelo of Paepae o Heeia. said.

The 800 year-old He’eia fish pond was suffocating from neglect and the fishpond had no fish but 15 years ago volunteers set out to change all that.

“Doing everything from rebuilding the wall, to removing invasive algae, to helping them in the office with the networking,” Sean Marrs said.

Now all 88 acres, with a sea wall that spans 1.3 miles — this landmark is one of the largest fishponds in the state, and is once again thriving with fish but it takes more than a village to get the pond back to what it once was.

“Today is our Hanohano Heeia work day,” said March Noguchi, Chef of the Pili Group.

Chefs and other volunteers from the culinary world gather every few months on a Monday to lend a helping hand.

“You’re a chef and obviously have people from the chef community what does that mean to have them out here?” KHON2 asked.

“It’s important yeah, you gotta know where your food comes from. It gives that tangible grasp again and by understanding that you end up with a greater respect of the product,” said Noguchi.

in addition to rebuilding the traditional fishpond crews and volunteers are prepping this thatching to rebuild a hale.

“We want to restore it back to what it originally looked like, we have a 20 year plan maybe 15 years now,” said Kawelo.

Paepae O Heeia averages 7,000 volunteers a year and more than 50,000 since they were founded in 2001, this project is a labor of love but many say its well worth it.

“Its more than restoring the pond I think it’s a symbol of restoring the community, Marrs added.

Its hoped the pond can eventually produce enough fish for the community and eventually local chefs and restaurants.

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