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Preserving Limu

State lawmakers recognize Hawai‘i’s seaweed in maintaining culture and nutrition

By Charissa Porter

Feb 25, 2021


Limu, also known as seaweed, was once a main component of the Hawaiian diet along with fish and poi. Today, limu is rapidly decreasing because of pollution and climate change.

There has been a recent movement to recognize the importance of preserving, restoring and teaching the knowledge of limu cultivation for future generations.

"Limu sustains capacity for nearshore fisheries by serving as the foundation of the marine food web and creates habitat for invertebrates and other marine life,” according to the Waimānalo Limu Hui. “Without it, all attempts restore Hawaii’s marine ecosystem and fisheries will fail."

Kimeona Kāne, director of community outreach for 808 Cleanups, is also a volunteer at Pāhonu in Waimānalo. He works with the Waimānalo limu hui to help rebuild the walls of an ancient turtle pond.

"It started with the limu hui wanting to take on that kuleana of restoring the wall so that we could plant limu into the space, and so under the direction of Kumu Haiku Kimozaro and some other great master masons weʻre taught how to re-engage this space through uhauhumu pōhaku, which is the idea of rock weaving or dry stack masonry," Kāne said.

Ikaika Rogerson, president of Waimānalo limu hui, has been working on restoring Pāhonu for over four years.

“One of our programs at ke kula nui o Waimānalo is the Waimānalo limu hui, and we started off making limu lei with limu thatʻs got a lot of spores in it and tied them to rocks — anchored them down — and we were placing them on what was the remnants of the old wall," Rogerson said.

He said he is passionate about teaching others how to cultivate limu, but also explains that this project has taught him a lot through trial and error and is always learning about how the changes in the environment and the moon impact the area.

This year, lawmakers approved a resolution that in 2022 the area be designated as the year of the limu. so that its importance for both the oceans ecosystem, Hawaiian knowledge and nutrition value is recognized and preserved. The Legislative resolution aims to reconnect future generations with limu-based cultural knowledge that has been lost throughout many generations.

Ward Kahoʻokelekea, a University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa graduate and recent mentor within the project, shared his interest in the project.

"This year I decided to ‘ōlelo Hawai’i, and I realized that in doing that you need to have Hawaiian thoughts, and so that’s what kind of sparked my interest with really getting involved with Hawaiian culture and the Hawaiʻi community," Kahoʻokelekea said.

Another UH Mānoa graduate, Piper Kublick, spends most of her weekends learning by working on restoration projects on Oʻahu.

"It’s a good way to stay connected to the ‘āina and give back to the places we love the most," Kublick said.

Elders and organizations involved with restoring limu aim to enlighten future generations of the importance of limu cultivation and preservation for the reefs, cultural enrichment and to help keep Hawaiʻiʻs natural ecosystems thriving.

For further information or if you would like to volunteer visit Pahonu – Waimanalo Limu Hui.

Charissa Porter

Charissa Porter is a web editor for Hoʻā at UH Mānoa and former journalist...

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