On August 26th,Congressional staff joined community partners to officially welcome the Heʻeia National Estuarine Research Reserve to our national system. The new reserve is a 1,385 acre expanse of forests, grasslands, wetlands, reefs, and seagrass in Kāneʻohe Bay on the Island of Oʻahu.
“The He‘eia Reserve recognizes Native Hawaiian and western management science and will use both to study the Kāneʻohe Bay estuary,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). “The proposed reserve includes a lo‘i (taro field), managed by Kakoaiwi, and a fishpond, managed by Paepae o He‘eia, in addition to a portion of Kāneʻohe Bay and the University of Hawai‘i’s Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology. I am excited to see what we may discover when Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners work with UH’s scientists to understand He‘eia.”
Recent flooding at the site’s Paepae o He’eia fishpond during a recent King tide illustrated the type of challenges the reserve will help address.
“Reserves are places for the community to understand the natural resources and the cultural resources they have available to them and how to protect them for future generations,” said Erica Seiden, program manager for NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System.
“We are humbled and honored to be selected first of all, but really excited about the opportunities that we can bring for our children,” said Kanekoa Kukea-Shultz, executive director of Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi, which has been restoring the lo’i at the site for years.