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Bringing sanctuary to Hawai‘i seaweed Work by a Waimānalo group gathers limu and community

and noticed when something was amiss. But the decline of the area’s limu had already happened by the time he and his peer group were coming of age, sending elders to other parts of the island for gathering grounds. The situation might still be off the radar were it not for Luana Albinio. The kupuna is old enough to have vivid memories of playing amid a bounteous seaweed supply harBy Liza Simon vested from Waimänalo shallows by the adults either pounding rain nor relentless ads in a homestead household where the many uses for unbeatable holiday deals at the of plants sparked her lifelong fascination with mall can keep dozens of limu. She is off to a conference in intrepid volunteers from Aotearoa today, but many regulars heeding a call to labor on present at the workday are gratebehalf of limu restoration. This is ful for her fierce insistence that the plan for the November monthly convinced a Waimänalo commuworkday hosted by the Waimänalo nity non-profit to take up her idea Limu Hui. Shortly after sunrise, for an organized effort at limu members of the fledgling commurestoration so that future generanity action group arrived at Kaiona tions wouldn’t miss out on what Beach Park and put up two spacious she enjoyed. Thus the Hui formed tents. Not long afterwards, friends in 2017. and strangers started streaming in Since then, a growing response to help “restore limu to its previous has also meant a growing mission abundance in Waimänalo,” as the for the Hui, as more people get Hui’s website puts it. inspired by the workday experiThe job begins with the rather ence. One striking example of this messy making of so-called “limu is the Hui’s undertaking of a projlei.” This is done with dripping wet ect to restore a nearby turtle pond, cords of raffia and clumps of limu The Waimānalo Limu Hui has scheduled monthly planting days at Kaiona Beach through Decem- built in antiquity probably at the that have been cultivated in a lab ber 2019 to help restore native limu. The next planting day is Dec. 22. Learn more at www. behest of an ali‘i. Workday volfor restoration purposes only, so as - Photo: Courtesy unteers found walls of the pond not to reduce the natural source any were an ideal place for wedging further. The hope is that spores on the seaweed in the snack tent. “It’s family style. Mämaki tea, in those spore-laden limu lei, but were quick to surfaces will spawn when volunteers get around potato salad…but not the family recipe for beef notice their crumbling condition. After hearing to submerging their lei in the ocean later today. stew today. We’re saving that for next month. out concerns, Hui members now host quarterly Meanwhile, a core of Hui members circle about, That’s your incentive to return,” he jokes. rock wall renovation days. talking story, and dropping educational tidbits So many do return, sometimes swelling attenThe question of how the actual limu is benabout the seaweed that is the star of today’s dance into the hundreds and with plenty of shared efitting from this flurry of human help remains show. “Like any plant you can’t just take it and goodwill, exceeding expectations set by Hui open-ended for now. The road ahead requires expect it to grow back,” says Hui Vice-President members when they began the scheduled work commitment and patience. “When I first met with Kaleo Puana, adding that as a boy he learned from days one year ago. “Maybe this is not only about the Limu Hui, I told them if you expect immediate his grandmother, who gathered only what was limu. The takeaway is about natural resource results, then don’t even start,” says Wally Ito, who needed. “It helped she was under five-feet tall and management done the cultural way. It’s more learned limu planting from his widely recognized good with a cane knife. She would cut and cut, but proactive than reactive,” says Waimänalo Limu mentor Uncle Henry Chang Wo. Now he comnever touch the roots!” he says animatedly. Hui President Ikaika Rogerson. pliments the Hui for using an approach that has Overharvesting is just one factor possibly The workdays have brought in a strong showing “united the community in a common effort.” driving depletion of Hawai‘i seaweed. There are of support from students and teachers in Native Just after the final pule of the workday takes newer and ever more complex problems linked Hawaiian-focused school programs, who apply place, someone mentions that seven-year-old to limu decline, including shoreline development, what they learn from Hui events to environmental Maya Koli‘i wants to share her thoughts on what toxic runoff from land, and even climate change. projects in their own communities. “I think this she has experienced. She smiles broadly. “I took Keeping limu healthy is not going to be easy but tells us that the Hawaiian community in general out a rock that will help the fish to live. This place it’s important. The species in everyone’s hands is looking for something positive to be part of,” feels like home to me now,” she says. today, Manauea liloa (Gracilaria coronopiolia), Rogerson adds. For the 2019 schedule of limu planting events is an edible limu, appreciated for spicing up the Like other Hui members, Rogerson grew up or for information about limu restoration or the traditional Hawaiian diet. Of several hundred sea- in Waimänalo Homesteads, making the waters of Waimänalo Limu Hui, go to waimanalolimuhui. weed species in Hawaiian coastal waters, many the bay an important part of his life. As a canoe org, or connect with the group on Facebook or @ are known in traditional lä‘au lapa‘au to have paddler, he took pride in the health of the ocean WaimanaloLimuHui. ¢


healing properties. Moreover, whether from science or traditional knowledge, limu’s critical role is made clear: it is the food supply that numerous marine organisms depend on for survival. Limu loss is a serious matter but it is with the playfulness of a club deejay urging people onto the dance floor that the Hui’s Kaleo Puana announces the moment to wade into the water and locate a spot to anchor those limu lei that have been fitted around sizeable rocks. Anyone not interested in the heavy lifting is welcome to come talk story

To maintain the connection to the past and a viable land base, Native Hawaiians will participate in and benefit from responsible stewardship of Ka Pae ‘Āina O Hawai‘i.


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