Native oysters cultured at the UH Hilo Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center will be used to improve water quality at Sand Island, Honolulu. At ceremonies to launch the project, baskets of oysters were placed in the water at Honolulu Community College’s Marine Education Training Center and the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s mooring area.
Oysters cultured at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo were ceremonially placed in waters at Honolulu Community College’s Marine Education Training Center at Sand Island, Honolulu, on Oct. 23. The oysters, a native species of shellfish, will be used to improve water clarity and quality. Native oysters filter between 20 and 45 gallons of water per day, depending on their size, removing harmful pollutants including sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, microplastics, sunscreen chemicals and nutrients from the water column, which improves water clarity and quality.
“This was the sixth location on O‘ahu for using native oysters for water quality improvement,” says Maria Haws, who heads the UH Hilo Native Hawaiian Oyster Project and is former director of the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center where the research and cultivation of the native oysters takes place. “We also have some in Hilo Bay, which was the first place in Hawai‘i where this was attempted starting in 2011. All of these are pilot efforts to obtain more data on growth and survival. The results have been good so far, so we’ll be expanding from 10,000 now out in the field to a total of 14,000 next month. Maui also has a site where we will use triploid Pacific Oysters with outplanting in December.”
- Read more: UH Hilo’s Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center’s project harnesses the power of native oysters to improve water quality (Ke Kalahea, May 2019)
The oyster restoration project to improve water quality at the Honolulu CC Marine Education Training Center was created through a collaborative partnership of UH Hilo, the O‘ahu Waterkeeper, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society (the Honolulu CC marine education center is located at Hōkūle‘a’s home port on Sand Island). Since 2002, the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Honolulu CC’s Marine Education and Training Center have been working together to develop a learning center that combines the voyaging and cultural expertise of PVS and the educational background of the community college and the marine center into a new, experience-driven training facility for students.
The oyster project is inspired by the Billion Oyster Project in New York Harbor, which Hōkūle‘a’s crew visited when the canoe sailed to New York City in 2016. The partners hope to encourage bio-remediation of the area’s waters and also to develop an educational program supporting these efforts.
The ceremonies at Sand Island
Noelani Kamalu and Diane Ogata, members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, report that students from Farrington High School‘s marine science classes contributed to the ceremonial event at Sand Island by measuring and then placing the oysters in the water prior to a ceremonial blessing. Hawaiian prayer, chants and other protocols were offered to bless the project. Professor of Aquaculture Maria Haws spoke of the need to continue to grow aquaculture operations in Hawai‘i, as the vast majority of seafood in the state is imported.
“It was a wonderful ceremony,” writes Haws in an email. “I’d like to highlight the work of Daniel Wilkie, research manager at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center, and David Littrell, facilities manager and aquaculture technician and the kahu who did the ceremony. They are largely responsible for raising the native oysters that were ceremonially placed in the water where the Polynesian Voyaging Society moors. Daniel and David do so much of the work for these projects but rarely get to attend [opening ceremonies] to receive the recognition they deserve.”
The Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center is a coastal site in Keaukaha on Hawai‘i Island adjacent to the Port of Hilo. Once an old wastewater treatment plant, the site now focuses on marine research on ornamental and foodfish culture and the cultivation of oysters.
The Marine Education Training Center, part of Honolulu Community College, has waterfront access to Ke‘ehi Lagoon. With four large working bays suited for various types of marine training and education along with classrooms and computer lab, the center focuses on finding solutions to marine environmental issues.
The Waterkeeper Alliance is an international organization to protect water resources in over 40 countries. The organization focuses on ways to reduce land-based pollutants and improve water quality.
The partners are also working to develop curriculum and experiences for students of all ages around the oyster program.
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.