BACK TO AQUACULTURE
Aquaculture is defined as the sea farming of seaweeds,
mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and large marine animals. The prehistoric
Hawaiian aquacultural system was, in the true sense of the word,
composed of both aquacultural and nonaquacultural units. Native
taxonomy did not
distinguish, between the cultivation of fish, as accomplished in
fishponds, and the trapping of fish in conjunction with the less
dependable and less productive sites.
Types II and III were found in riverine, deltic areas and along relatively low alluvial lands where natural ponds and lakes were situated.
Type IV were located wherever large irrigated fields and terraces were found, especially at the lower limits of these irrigation systems.
Type V loko ume'iki were found in the same areas where the type I loko kuapa were found.
The type VI natural pools were concentrated along jagged, un-eroded shorelines. The type
VII dams and weirs could be utilized only in the upland areas where there were permanent streams.
shelters, type VIII, were constructed only in shallow mud shoals where
reefs and natural shelters were absent.
Therefore, there is a predictability of the types of aquacultural sites to be found in an area. Likewise, the wide range of landforms, from the sea to the uplands, used for the catching of fish is indicative of the intensity of the tapping of aquatic resources by the prehistoric Hawaiians.
Within the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu had the greatest number and percentage of sites and types of sites found. Molokai claimed the largest number and greatest concentration of type V loko ume'iki fishtraps. All of the other main islands, with the exception of Kaho'olawe, had fishponds and fishtraps in varying numbers and proportions, but dominated by types II, III, IV, VI, VII,, and VIII, that is, all types, but the loko kuapa fishponds and loko ume'iki fishtraps.
The concentration of
fishponds on Oahu seems to be correlated not with the concentration of
political power there, but with the availability of shallow, reef
protected shoals and bays and the large lagoon of Pearl Harbor.
Obviously, these are the same areas where sites would be better preserved and protected from natural disasters and sea erosion, which may have eradicated many aquacultural sites in other, less ideal locations.
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This bureaucracy became evident in
aquacultural activities. Below the chief of a district was the konohiki
or land supervisor, who was the chief's spokesman and personal
representative. Under the konohiki came the kia'i loko, fishpond
caretaker, whose function was to tend the pond and to harvest its
produce. The haku ohana, the senior head of the tenant families that
lived in a land district, was responsible for assisting with the
occasional cleaning and the maintenance of the pond. His job was also
to see that the resident extended family members served their lord in
civil and martial activities. At the bottom of the strata was the
Based on historic and ethnographic research, it appears that all fishponds, except for the smaller taro plot ponds, were always the exclusive property of royalty and were strictly controlled by them.
the other hand, conspicuous control of the remaining types seems to
have been minimal or absent, as these sites were not continuous or
reliable sources of foods, but were dependent on the natural
fluctuations of nature, that is, on tide and season. Since, in the end,
everything in the Hawaiian Islands belonged to the chiefs, these types,
too, certainly were under the overall charge of the land supervisor,
and it is likely that a percentage of their yield had to be given to
the chief and his konohiki.
Evidently, the general population did not directly benefit from the presence of fishponds in their district. Increasingly, the conspicuous ownership by royalty of the larger, more productive and more dependent aquacultural sites saw the widening of the gap between the commoner and royalty, as was manifested in the total use and ownership of all fishponds and in the allocation of agricultural lands within districts for exclusive ownership and use by the royalty and their konohiki.
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The Hawaiian court was very mobile. Although there were selected shore areas that were rough equivalents to a capital, more likely a headquarters, the royalty frequently moved about, taking its entire retinue with it. This mobility and the general absence of large store- or warehouses are indicative of a trend toward the conspicuous control of the more productive sources of fresh food.
obvious advantage of status is one's ability to eat certain vegetable
foods and fish at any time of the day, month, and season, and, more
importantly to the chiefs, continuously during their sojourn in a
district. And so the fishpond became the aquacultural equivalent of the
agricultural kolelp, the land set aside strictly for the chiefs. Native
wealth was seen not in terms of money, but, more tangibly, in food,
such as pig, tuna, taro, and mullet.
The native aquacultural system probably was a relatively low yield technology. The most prolific source of fish, the fishponds, had porous seawalls and sluice grates which allowed predator fry to enter and to grow, feeding on other fish. Too little effort was spent in the elimination of predators and in the artificial fertilization of ponds for the aquacultural system to have developed into a true, man-controlled farming technology.
Using data from surveys taken of fishpond yields in 1900, it was calculated that pond yield was very low, averaging approximately 300 pounds of fish per acre per year. If we can assume that native prehistoric ponds had similar yields and that they were set aside for royalty, then a low yield was sufficient. Modern aquaculture views success as meaning high yield and the resultant high cash value of each fish. The decrease from 139 to approximately 3 fishponds in production today and the virtual extinction of fishponds as important sources of fish reflect the low yield of ponds and indicate that their original intent was not to produce a large quantity of fish, but was to indicate status.
The Hawaiian aquacultural system started to stagnate and decline as soon as the royalty became more western oriented in terms of material culture and monetary value. The original integrating function of aquaculture was lost and its system atrophied.
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