The Hawaiians were masters of a self-sustaining and self-replicating ecosystem in ways that could only be envied by modern-day environmentalists. No where can this be seen and demonstrated better than in their use of the Hawaiian fishponds that were built throughout the islands of Hawaii between 1000 and 800 years ago. As seen in the adjoining photo, the island of Molokai has perhaps the largest number of and highest quality fishponds still in existence in Hawaii. In fact, a number of these magnificent structures have been restored over the years with the guidance and stewardship of many dedicated individuals in the Molokai community.
The purpose of these fishponds was to breed and gather fish from the sea and allow them to flourish and grow in a limited area that would make it easy for the fisherman and seaweed gatherers to harvest this vital resource at will in a continuously available supply. Although the fishpond itself was the most obvious portion in this ingenious man made ecosystem it was actually a system that was engineered to integrate not only the waters below by the ocean but also the forests high above in the mountains as well as all areas between the mountain peaks and the oceans below. Streams were diverted into ponds at the mid point and taro fields were planted. As the water passed through this area as irrigation it gathered large quantities on nutrient rich material which eventually made its way down to the ocean below.
This nutrient rich material was a natural magnet for the smaller fish and when this area was surrounded by a large seawall of stones and coral formations by the Hawaiians it produced an area that these fish would be trapped in when the gate was closed in a gap in the wall. Larger fish would also be trapped in the ponds and at night time could easily be captured as they attempted to gain access to the open ocean at the point of the gate. The fish would also be able to breed within the boundary of the pond itself and consequently provided an almost endless supply of delicious and healthy protein for the Hawaiian diet.