Upon his death in 1989, legendary hair stylist and hair-care product icon Paul Mitchell left several valuable Hawaiian properties in trust to his son, Angus Mitchell. Among them was an idyllic coastal parcel at Kīholo Bay on the island of Hawai‘i. In 2011, the younger Mitchell donated the property to TNC.
The site, a fishpond estuary with abundant marine life, includes two large, interconnected freshwater spring-fed pools containing numerous native fish species, hapawai (mollusk) and ʻopae (shrimp). A 200-foot-long ‘auwai, or stone channel, connects the ponds to Kīholo Bay, which has a resident population of green sea turtles that use the inland ponds to feed and rest. Threatened migratory seabirds also frequent the area.
Kīholo is part of a larger coastal area that was once coveted by Hawaiian chiefs for its productive nearshore reefs and offshore fisheries, its fishponds and anchialine pools. For native Hawaiians, Kīholo is a culturally important site, especially for those who continue to live in the vicinity and trace their ancestry back to the land.
Why TNC selected this sight
In Hawai‘i, fishpond estuaries function as a vital interface between land and coastal waters, providing habitat for native flora and fauna above and below their sheltered waters. At Kīholo, between three and five million gallons of submarine groundwater flow to coastal waters through the fishponds each day, supporting populations of green sea turtles, estuarine fish and marine fish species associated with coral reef habitats.
What TNC is doing
TNC is working directly with community members and other conservation partners to restore the fishpond estuary and improve ecosystem health. Conservation measures include removing invasive vegetation around the ponds to reduce decaying leaf litter, and removing the existing sediment within the ponds. TNC is measuring the effects of these efforts on water quantity and quality as well as fish abundance, biomass and recruitment. This data is directly relevant to coastal areas and contributes valuable information to our understanding of the role and function of fishpond estuaries in Hawai‘i.