Six Main Styles of Hawaiian Fishponds.
A fishpond symbolized a rich ahupua‘a (major land division), which reflected favorably on the ali‘i as well as on the people living in the ahupua‘a.
There are two general types of fishponds, saltwater, and freshwater, with six main styles. The style of fishponds constructed is closely related to the topographical features of an area.
The salinity of the water served as an important element in determining the type of construction as well as what types of food could be raised and their level of productivity.
The six main styles of fishponds as identified by Kikuchi include:
Loko Kuapā, Loko Pu‘uone, Loko Wai, Loko I‘a Kalo, Loko ‘Ume‘iki and Kāheka / Hāpunapuna.
The first three types of coastal fishponds – Loko Kuapā, Loko Pu‘uone, and Loko Wai – belonged to royalty. These ponds, between 10 and 100 acres in size, were considered a symbol of high social and economic status.
A fishpond of littoral water whose side or sides facing the sea consists of a stone or coral wall usually containing one or more sluice grates.
Loko kuapā (Figure 1, Type 1) were strictly coastal fishponds whose characteristic feature was a kuapā (seawall) of lava or coral rubble. They were usually built over a reef flat, with the wall extending out from two points on the coast in an enclosed semicircle.
These ponds usually had one or two ‘auwai (channels) that were used mainly for water flushing or inflow, depending on the rising and ebbing of the tides, but were also used during harvesting and stocking.
Loko kuapā, because they were enclosed reef flats, had all the marine aquatic sea life that would be expected to be found on a reef flat including kala, palani, and manini.
Less common fish sometimes found in these fishponds were the kāhala, kumu, moano, weke ula, uhu, various species of hīnālea, surgeonfish, crevally, goatfish, and even puhi.
An isolated shore fishpond usually formed by the development of barrier beaches building a single, elongated sand ridge parallel to the coast and containing one or more ditches and sluice grates.
Loko pu‘uone contained mostly brackish water, with inputs from both freshwater and saltwater sources. Fresh water from streams, artesian springs, and percolation from adjacent aquifers was mixed with seawater that entered through channels during incoming tides.
This mixing produced a highly productive estuarine environment. The most characteristic feature of this type of fishpond was a sandbar, coastal reef structure, or two close edges of landmass that could be connected to enclose a body of water.
Typical of these ponds were fish that were able to handle fluctuations of salinity. These fish include ‘ama‘ama, awa, āholehole, pāpio or ulua, ‘ō‘io, nehu, awa ‘aua, ‘o‘opu, kaku, moi, and weke.
An inland freshwater fishpond which is usually either a natural lake or swamp, which can contain ditches connected to a river, stream, or the sea, and which can contain sluice grates.
It was typically made from a natural depression, lake, or pool whose water was mainly from diverted streams, natural groundwater springs, or percolation from an aquifer. Various ‘o‘opu were commonly found in these ponds.
Loko I‘a Kalo
An inland fishpond utilizing irrigated taro plots. These “kalo fishponds” combined aquaculture with flooded agriculture. Kalo lo‘i were used to raise ‘o‘opu, ‘ama‘ama, and āholehole.
Loko ‘ume iki were not actually fishponds but rather fish traps. Like the loko kuapā, they were constructed on a reef flat, but loko ‘ume iki had “fish lanes,” corridors used to net or trap fish going onto or off the reef.
Each loko ‘ume iki had many fish lanes with fishing rights usually assigned to a family. The traps operated without the use of gates and relied on natural movements of fish.
The lanes were usually tapered, with the wide end facing either inward or outward, and anywhere from 10 to 40 feet long.
Kāheka and Hāpunapuna
A natural pool or holding pond. These fishponds are also referred to as anchialine ponds. They have no surface connection to the sea, contain brackish water and show tidal rhythms. Many have naturally occurring shrimp and mollusks.
Most Hawaiian anchialine ponds are in the youngest lava areas of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and Maui. They exist in inland lava depressions near the shore and contain brackish (a mixture of freshwater and saltwater) water.
Freshwater is fed to the ponds from groundwater that moves downslope and from rainwater. Ocean water seeps into the ponds through underground crevices in the surrounding lava rock. (Lots of information here is from DLNR and Farber.)
This page Courtesy – Peter T Young © 2023 Ho‘okuleana LLC