Research and Restoration
Hui o Kuapā has been a leader in promoting ʻike Hawaiʻi, traditional knowledge, throughout their 25-year history. The organization plays a vital role in advancing Hawaiian innovation and engineering, as the staff and practitioners continuously refine practices within their environment discovering and rediscovering methods of maintaining traditional ecosystems and food systems while maintaining their fragile ecological surroundings. Native Hawaiians were ingenious in their ability to live with the lowest environmental footprint and through emulating their practice Hui o Kuapā is researching ways to make modern living more sustainable.
Loko iʻa represent one of the most advanced methods of fish farming of the ancient people of the Pacific. Hui o Kuapā works to promote traditional practices in food security and engineering while also participating in cutting-edge research and adapting modern techniques to compliment and enhance fishpond management. Through its years of experience, the organization continues to develop and teach people throughout Hawaiʻi the processes involved in fishpond construction, fish husbandry, conservation, and sustainable food systems.
As a leader in environmental stewardship, Hui o Kuapā recognizes the delicate balance between resource availability and our natural environment. As one of the only loko iʻa actively managed in Hawai‘i, the fishpond practitioners at Hui o Kuapā provide critical real-time climate change adaption by utilizing various bioshields and other proven fortification techniques consistent with those found throughout the Pacific Islands to help protect cultural resources and low-lying areas.
Through collaboration with local and national partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Oceanic Institute, Conservation International Hawai‘i, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Hawai‘i Pacific University, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Mālama ‘Āina Foundation, Kamehameha Schools and others, Hui o Kuapā is at the forefront of climate change efforts in the Pacific, aquaculture activities, promoting food security, environmental and cultural education, traditional landscape restoration, and engaging in advocacy efforts and environmental protection in Hawaiʻi.
Loko iʻa are meant to feed the people and with that purpose they are a critical resource to food security in the rural areas. Before western contact, there were over 400 loko i‘a in Hawai‘i feeding the population. In 1989, Hui o Kuapā was established on Molokaʻi to restore traditional fishponds, a movement that continues to gain ground today.
Working with the local community, Hui o Kuapā rebuilds and rediscovers traditional knowledge to build and manage loko iʻa. By working with the rocks, water, marine life and other natural resources Hui o Kuapā has established a fully functional loko iʻa. Since its establishment, Hui o Kuapā has travelled to neighboring loko iʻa across the islands to share their knowledge and expertise. Thanks to their long-standing dedication, numerous nonprofit organizations focusing on fishpond restoration have been formed following Hui o Kuapā’s model and a number of loko iʻa in Hawai‘i are in the process of being fully restored.
Hui o Kuapā also links environmental restoration to cultural restoration. The team teaches about the importance of cultural pride and the ingenuity of Hawaiian sustainability. By reinforcing how traditional Hawaiian natural resource management practices maintained a healthy population for 2,000 years prior to western contact, Hui o Kuapā helps to show community members in Hawai‘i today how food security can once again be achieved.