NSD is always looking for ways to leverage our resources and expertise to support our project partners, and in 2019 this included helping Malama Huleia (https://malamahuleia.org/) tackle the largest mangrove removal project in Hawaii at the Alakoko Fishpond. Formed in 2015, Malama Huleia (https://malamahuleia.org/) is a local Hawaii nonprofit that is leading the community effort to eradicate the red mangrove and other invasive plants along the Hulē‘ia estuary and river, which includes the Alakoko Fishpond. Dedicated local volunteers have been removing the mangrove by hand, and these efforts are ongoing, but in the winter of 2019, Sara Bowman, Executive Director of Malama Huleia recruited a team of skilled machine operators from the Pacific Northwest led by Bryan Vallett to volunteer for two months. In that time, over 6.5 acres of mangrove was removed using heavy equipment and chainsaws. Their story can be seen here: https://malamahuleia.org/2019/03/22/the-machine-crew/

Alakoko fishpond on Kauai, Hawai

Alakoko fishpond on Kauai, Hawaii, with red mangrove removal underway February 2019.

The Alakoko Fishpond, also known as the Menehune Fishpond, is located on Kauai, Hawaii near Lihue, about a half-mile inland from Nawiliwili Harbor. It is the largest of six fishponds in the Nawiliwili area and has immense cultural significance.  For decades, colonization by invasive Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) has rendered the Alakoko Fishpond completely inaccessible as a cultural and ecological resource. The red mangrove has threatened the integrity of the ancient stone wall and has greatly degraded wildlife habitat in the pond.

As part of this major push to remove the mangrove, NSD contributed staff volunteer hours as well as in-kind donations for project volunteers. Megan Whiteside, an NSD environmental scientist spent two weeks clearing mangrove with the volunteer crew. NSD Principals John Soden and Tim Abbe also lent a hand.

Following the removal of the mangrove, the area will be replanted with native wetland plants. As native fish, birds, and plants return to the site, the Alakoko Fishpond can once again serve as it had for centuries- as a major cultural hub, food resource, and important place for wildlife.