Ancient Hawaiian Fishponds: Can Restoration Succeed on Moloka'i?


Joseph M. Farber


Encinitas, California: Neptune House Publications in association with the East-West Center's Pacific Islands Development Program

Publication Date: 1997
ISBN: 0-965978 2-0-6
Binding: paper
Pages: x, 99


The south shore of Moloka`i is blessed with the greatest number of ancient Hawaiian fishponds in the State and perhaps the strongest advocates of fishpond preservation and restoration. The community envisions that these ponds, which have slowly deteriorated, will be restored primarily for subsistence use.

Secondary considerations in restoring the fishponds include utilizing them as teaching tools for various disciplines including Hawaiian culture, marine biology, resource management and community-based economic development. Beyond these proposals, however, is the over-riding wish of the community to save these historic structures from further destruction as they embody an important spiritual, cultural and historic link with the past.

Concurrent with the slow physical destruction of the fishponds have emerged a plethora of environmental laws and regulations to protect Hawaii's marine and coastal environment. While these laws intend to balance the competing interests of protecting marine and coastal environments against its over-development and degradation, they also pose the latest—many feel the greatest—impediments to restore the ancient Hawaiian fishponds.

How can all of these forces comfortably coexist and at the same time allow the fishponds to be restored in a timely and economical fashion? Where can we find a balance between fishpond restoration and environmental protection?

This book is an attempt to provide answers to these questions. Major sections include:

  • Historical background (including physical characteristics, cultural, socio-political roles of ancient fishponds, decline and destruction of fishponds).
  • The fishpond restoration movement (1901-1995).
  • Community-based planning strategies for fishpond restoration on Moloka`i.
  • Permit requirements and procedures for fishpond restoration.