Oysters used to filter Pearl Harbor

Local News


Pearl Harbor, traditionally known as Puʻuloa, is filled with history.

Did you know that its waters were one of the most successful aquacultral systems throughout all Hawaiʻi?  

This contributed to the success of ancient Native Hawaiian sustaibility.

You would never know it today, but in old Hawaiʻi, the sight of Pearl Harbor included fishponds and fish traps.

Over 30 fishponds scattered throughout Puʻuloa, most of which have been since filled in and destroyed.

But 3 still remain today, including Loko Iʻa Paʻaiau.

“The restoration of Loko Iʻa Paʻaiau is like a dream come true for our community,” says Kehaulani Lum, President of Aliʻi Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club. “We asked over 20 years ago to be able to partner with the Navy to come in there.  We have not been able to enter it since war time and it had become a mangrove forest.”

In early 2019, a new project reintroduced native oysters back into the waters of Puʻuloa.

One of the reasons? Filter the water.

“Oysters being introduced…an adult oyster can filter feed anywhere from 20-50, the big ones, 50 gallons a day,” says Kui McCarty, oyster expert and Aquaculture Manager at Kualoa Ranch. “So it adds more of a natural balance to what the ponds were created to be.”

But do note, oysters used for filtration should not be eaten.  

Kualoa Ranch raises their own oysters for consumption, setting an example of how its possible to be self-sustainable once again. 

“What’s beautiful throughout this moment is we have been talking about ahuupuaʻa practice for a long time and how we need to restore our connections to our ahupuaʻa,” says Kehaulani Lum.  “And staying home is exactly what that is.  Its saying stay home and consist of what you have there.”

Oysters disappeared from the Puʻuloa waters largely due to being drowned in mud from earthly runoff.

Its interesting to take note that Kualoa Ranch actually adopted a new technique of raising oysters in a floating device out of the mud.

This is credited to Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director of Health.    

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