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Marriott “voluntourism” project helps with fishpond restoration on Maui

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Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography

As part of Marriott International’s Insurance and Financial Services Forum held on Maui, Aug. 22 to 24, Meet Hawai‘i sponsored a mālama-focused voluntourism project in Kīhei.

Sixty attendees, including Marriott executives, hoteliers and customers, helped with restoration efforts at Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond in South Maui. This was also part of Marriott’s Serve360 commitment to create positive and sustainable impact wherever they do business.

On Monday, Aug. 22, participants were greeted at Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond by Kumu and Hawaiian Cultural Advisor Kimokeo Kapahulehua who led them through a cultural immersion in loko i‘a (fishpond) education.

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In partnership with nonprofit ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui (Maui Fishpond Association) and its Executive Director Joylynn Paman who also joined, the group had the opportunity to learn: traditional methods of passing rocks from ma uka to ma kai (upland to lowland), the concepts of an ahupua‘a (traditional land division from the mountain to the sea), the importance of kapu (taboo and protocol), as well as the ideals of lōkahi (unity), laulima (cooperation), and mālama. It is through these hands-on activities that the participants were able to learn the mo‘olelo (story and history) of a living cultural treasure.

  • Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography
  • Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography
  • Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography
  • Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography
  • Marriott “voluntourism” program helps with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond restoration. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography

About Kalepolepo Village and Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond

In ancient times, Kalepolepo was a thriving Hawaiian fishing village that spanned across the three ahupua‘a (Hawaiian land division) of Ka‘ono‘ulu, Waohuli, and Kēōkea. It was well-fit for aquaculture and was chosen as a prime location for the three royal Hawaiian fishponds, including Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond.

In the 1800s, Kalepolepo was a large settlement for Maui’s Kula coast. The shores bustled with activity as fisherman and whalers traded goods with upland potato farmers. But the village died in the late 1800s when erosion from denuded uplands filled the area with silt. Today, Kalepolepo is more familiar as a much smaller recreational area with Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond gracing its shores.

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Built nearly 500 years ago, Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond is one of South Maui’s treasures. Thousands of Hawaiians passed pōhaku (rocks) by hand, for miles, from the mountains to the sea to build its kuapā (wall). Its makahā (sluice gates) allowed small fish to enter and prevented larger fish from escaping. Traditionally, Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond was a royal pond and its fish were reserved strictly for the ali‘i (chiefs).

As centuries passed, the fishpond was neglected, its kuapā slowly crumbled and it was at risk of becoming another lost treasure of Hawai‘i. Today, ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui works with the community to revitalize Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond for future generations to enjoy.

Joylynn Paman, Executive Director of the nonprofit ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui (Maui Fishpond Association) instructs guests on restoration efforts at Kō‘ie‘ie Fishpond. PC: courtesy Pacific Dream Photography / Blinnk Photography

Continuing stewardship

“Many customers shared how amazing it was to work alongside Paman. They also described how the experience was truly moving and so important to carry through in their own programs returning to the Islands,” according to Marriott representatives.

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To further support Hawai‘i businesses and the actions called for by the community in the Maui Destination Management Action Plan, Meet Hawai‘i worked with Māna Up to provide participants with Hawai‘i-made recycled bags, reef-safe sunscreen, eco-friendly hand sanitizer and lip balm, and Waiākea Water.

Meet Hawai‘i, in partnership with Marriott International and Wailea Beach Resort, will also be making a donation to ‘Ao‘ao O Nā Loko I‘a O Maui to help support its continuing stewardship work at Kō‘ie‘ie, for today, tomorrow and the future of the island.

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