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The Return of the Fish of Kings

The moi (Pacific threadfin) is known as the “fish of kings.” At one time, only Hawai’ian royalty were allowed to eat this fish. Moi was so important to the ancient Hawai’ians that they built ponds to farm these fish and sustain the population.

And so it was in an ancient fishpond of King Kamehameha at Kīholo Bay, until it fell prey to feral goats and invasive plant species. The goats eat the native plants, allowing dense, invasive brush to take over and prevent moi from using the pond. The brackish pond is now just a fraction of the original 200-acre waterway.

Hawai’ian moi (Pacific threadfin) being prepared as sashimi.

We are partnering with The Nature Conservancy, Hui Aloha Kīholo (descendants of the area), and volunteers to improve the habitat. Once a month, they gather at Kīholo Pond removing invasive vegetation and building a fence to keep goats out. The Kīholo project is one of nine projects NOAA funded across the Hawai’ian Islands aimed at the protection and restoration of Hawai’i’s coastal areas. The fishpond is also within the West Hawai’i Habitat Focus Area under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint.

This shoreline work is already benefiting the ecosystem within the pond.

Moi hadn’t been seen in the pond since 2011. During a survey last spring, large moi were seen there once again. Since then, a good number of adult and juvenile moi have been observed in the pond.

“The return of the moi tells us we’re going in the right direction,” said Rebecca Most, marine coordinator for The Nature Conservancy.

Posted November 2014