In ancient Hawai‘i, fishponds were an integral part of the ahupua‘a. Hawaiians built enclosures in near shore waters to raise fish for their communities and families. It is believed these were first built around the fifteenth century.
A fish was kapu to the Hawaiians during its spawning season, to allow a variety of fish to reproduce. Although the chief or commoners were unable to catch fish in the sea at specific time spans, they were available in the fishponds because fishponds were considered a part of the land.
In 1848, when King Kamehameha III pronounced the Great Māhele, or land distribution, Hawaiian fishponds were considered private property. This was confirmed in subsequent Court cases that noted “titles to fishponds are recognized to the same extent and in the same manner as rights recognized in fast land.”
Maunalua Bay, located at the southeast end of Oʻahu, was once home to many large Hawaiian fishponds; one of these was Kalauhaʻihaʻi fishpond (sometimes referenced as Kalauhaʻehaʻe (and Lucas Pond/Spring.))
Its original owners were King Kamehameha I and Queen Kaʻahumanu who maintained a summer residence on Paikō Beach. Kalauhaʻihaʻi was once one of Oʻahu’s most thriving and productive fishponds, raising awa, aholehole, mullet and other favorites.
The name Kalauhaʻihaʻi refers to Queen Kaʻahumanu’s breaking of the old kapu (the ancient system of laws and regulations) when she became Christian, which is said to have taken place on the property.
King Kamehameha later gave the land, including the spring and pond, to Captain Alexander Adams (1780–1871.) “Many were the self-sacrificing services rendered Kamehameha and Kaʻahumanu by Captain Adams, and they both loved him for his loyal devotion.”
“In appreciation they gave him the whole of the land of Niu, Oʻahu, and included also in this gift their favorite resort subsequently called Kalauhaihai, the place where Kaahumanu first proclaimed her renunciation of ancient rites and customs, to adopt modern civilization and customs.”
“That was why the place was so named, meaning a scattering or dropping off of leaves; plucking withered leaves, a renunciation of the ancient customs to adopt the new.” (Thrum)
Ownership of the 2,446-acres were claimed by Alexander Adams under Claim No. 802 filed February 14, 1848, with the Land Commission at the time of the Great Māhele.
The claim states: “From the testimony of Governor Kekūanāoʻa … it appears that the claimant was created lord of konohiki of this land, in the time of Kamehameha I, and that he has exercised the konohikiship of the same without dispute ever since the year of Our Lord 1822.”
The Niu Valley estate was passed down to Adams’ granddaughter, Mary Lucas; Kalauhaʻihaʻi fishpond was later used for a family dairy by Mary Lucas. She started subdividing the property in the 1950s; Adam’s descendants remain in the area.
In the 1960s, Mr. Tad Hara had a two-story wooden house built over the still productive pond. The home was designed with a glass floor to allow Mr. Hara to view the fish in the pond.
The 3-foot-deep pond was filled with aholehole (Hawaiian flagtail,) ʻopae lolo (aloha prawn,)ʻamaʻama (mullet,) awa (milkfish,) hapawai (brackish water snail) and koi. In 1989, Mr. Hara registered his fishpond with the State Water Commission.
Widening Kalanianaʻole Highway (the fourth busiest highway in the State) in the early-1990s changed things.
During construction, they ruptured the lava tube connecting Kalauhaʻihaʻi Fishpond to the underground artesian source directly mauka of the pond that altered spring flow to the ocean, diverted the water to utility line trenches and the sewer.
A legal battle ensued to restore the spring’s flow; Mr. Hara eventually sold the property to the DOT.
A community effort to preserve the pond resulted in a NOAA-sponsored plan and legislation to keep the property in state hands and away from public auction (as well as providing statewide preference for the reconstruction, restoration, repair, or use of Hawaiian fishponds.)
Since 2007, Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center has been working to save Kalauhaʻihaʻi; they happily reported that on July 11, 2013, they were given the keys to the property and permission to restore the fishpond and care for the grounds.
In 2021, Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center worked with the State Legislature to secure $1 million to go to DLNR Engineering Branch for the reconnection and long awaited repair of the water flow at Kalauhaʻihaʻi.