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Monday, August 21, 2000



By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Henry Chang Wo points out where limu can be found in the
ocean at Ewa Beach. below, he holds a bit of limu,
once prolific, but now scarce.

Fighting to restore
‘the motherland’ of
seaweed in Ewa

A limu enthusiast leads an
Ewa Beach community
effort to replant and stop
overharvesting of seaweed

By Pat Gee

WHEN Henry Chang Wo was a boy growing up in Ewa Beach, the limu, or seaweed, grew "so tall and so thick that we used to lay down on it like grass" in the midst of the shallow breakwater.

That was more than 60 years ago, when Ewa's Oneula Beach Park used be known as "the motherland" of seaweed, and huge beds of limu thrived on the reefs from Sand Island to Barber's Point, he said.

Now it's a different story. Only small stubbles of the stuff, also known by the Japanese name, "ogo," can be found here and there on some shoreline rocks, where there was once "choke limu" washing up on the sand, Chang Wo said.

Now, even the best divers who search for the seaweed in deeper water only come up with slim pickings where there used to be huge "beds that were like gardens" of the tasty seaweed, he said.

The limu is a victim of overharvesting by commercial divers -- whom he calls "rapers" -- because they have "wiped the whole thing out in the last five years."

Commercial harvesters are limited to 10 pounds a day, and individuals can only pick one pound at most. People who pluck the limu out by its roots are also guilty of depleting the supply, he added.

Two years ago Chang Wo and kupuna Walter Kamana started a campaign to replant limu and get the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to post signs prohibiting the harvesting of seaweed.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin

They want to replant an area about three-quarters of a mile wide and forbid harvesting for about 12 to 18 months until the limu is regenerated.

With widespread support from Ewa Beach's two surfing clubs, fishermen, residents, the Hawaiian Civic Club and the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center, Chang Wo's efforts received unanimous endorsement from the Ewa Beach Neighborhood Board on August 10.

His next step is to take the proposal to the Department of Land and Natural Resources to get the signs erected. Until then, he and other beach-goers can only ask harvesters to leave the area alone, or at least leave something behind "for my children and everyone's children," Chang Wo said.

The informal community group meets at the beach park the second Saturday of each month to educate students and others. Kamana teaches how to braid limu into strips of bark that are anchored in the ocean with rocks so the limu can be replenished.

Their major replanting project was nipped in the bud about a year ago when their crop was wiped out overnight by a group of harvesters who plucked the limu out by its roots, he said.

"I'm afraid that even though we replant it, it might not come back. There's a lot of fungus in the water and foreign limu coming in with all the water pollution," Chang Wo said.

Once the signs are up, which could take up to a year, he said the community group members will take it upon themselves to help game wardens monitor the area.

The group is proposing that signs protect an area going three-fourths of a mile east from Oneula Beach Park to what is known as "Ted Farm's site," from the vegetation line to the surf break.

Harvesting would be prohibited for 12 to 18 months while the area is replanted, and thereafter, nine months of every year. It would be allowed only from mid-May to June 30 and December through mid-January. Commercial harvesting and drag-net fishing would be prohibited completely.

If the signs help to replenish the limu, Chang Wo said they'll try another area. Unless something is done, "the way it's going, there's going to be nothing left," he said.

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