How Ancient Hawaiians Provided Fresh Fish for Their Families

How Ancient Hawaiians Provided Fresh Fish for Their Families

Kaloko Honokohau National Park

Ancient Hawaiians were skilled in creating and managing fishponds, which they called "loko iʻa." These ponds were designed to cultivate fish and other seafood, such as shrimp, crab, and seaweed, to supplement the Hawaiian diet.

To create a fish pond, ancient Hawaiians selected a location near the ocean where there was a source of fresh water. They then built a wall or embankment using stones and coral, creating a semi-circular or rectangular enclosure in the water. The wall was built to a height that would allow water to flow in and out of the pond with the tides, but also keep fish from escaping.

The ancient Hawaiians used a sophisticated system of gates and channels to regulate the flow of water in and out of the ponds, ensuring that the water was oxygenated and that fish had access to both fresh and salt water. They also created areas within the pond where fish could spawn and grow, such as shallow areas for breeding and deeper areas for larger fish to swim.

The fishponds were stocked with a variety of fish, including mullet, milkfish, and other types of fish that were common in Hawaiian waters. The fish were fed a diet of algae and other natural foods that grew in the pond.

Fish ponds were a valuable resource for the ancient Hawaiians, providing a steady source of protein and other nutrients. They were also an important part of Hawaiian culture and mythology, with many stories and legends associated with the creation and management of these ponds. Today, many fish ponds in Hawaii have been restored and are used to educate people about Hawaiian culture and the importance of sustainable aquaculture practices.

The next time you visit the Big Island, please make sure to check out the Kaloko Honokohau National Park. It's located almost directly across the street from our facilities and is a wonderful chance to see what ancient Hawaiian fish ponds looked like.

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