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Integration of Next-generation Sequencing into Traditional Hawaiian Practices to Improve Management and Restoration of Fishponds

Principal Investigator: Robert Toonen

Graduate Student: Kaleonani Hurley

Hawaiian fishponds, or loko iʻa, are ancient aquaculture systems that are models of sustainable aquatic resource management based on long-term experience from traditional Native Hawaiian practices. There is much to be learned from a system in which 100% of the population lived off the land for centuries relative to the decline of ecosystem services over the past century, when nearly 90% of food must be imported. For this proposal, we will be working in two mostly restored and large fishponds: one on the eastern coast of Oʻahu and a second on the southern coast of Molokaʻi.  Using the culturally important kuahonu, or white crab (Portunus sanguinolentus), and the economically important Samoan crab (Scylla serrata) as our model fishery species, we ask three primary questions: 1) What are the life history characters of these species that can aid in resource management? 2) Are fishponds self-seeding, importing, or exporting crabs to the surrounding fishing grounds? and 3) What are the traditional management practices for kuahonu, and can those harvest practices still work today?