(HONOLULU) – In January, Governor David Ige proclaimed 2022 “the year of the Limu”. He recognized the important role that the limu, in freshwater, saltwater, and other wet habitats, play in Native Hawaiian traditions and Ahupu’a stewardship.
The governor’s proclamation also notes that limu are an integral part of the traditional Hawaiian diet, are used for medicinal, religious, and cultural purposes, and that expertise on limu has been widely passed down to Native Hawaiian women for generations.
Limu-loving advocates like Wally Ito, the former Limu Hui coordinator for the non-profit organization Kua’aina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA), have called for recognition of the limu.
In a letter to Governor Ige, Ito wrote, “Before Western contact, the Limu had a major role in Hawaiian society. Limu was the salad and spice that provided much of the nutrients needed for a healthy population. Limu was also a major source of medicine and was used in many cultural and religious practices. Nowhere else in the world has the lime played a significant role in the health and vitality of the population. Unfortunately, much of what was known about this important resource has diminished over the past four generations. The reasons for the loss of this important part of Hawaiian culture are many, but the main factors are the change in our modern food systems and the loss of habitat for the limu due to changes in coastal land use.
Ito added, “Local, national and international research organizations and higher education institutions are realizing the many uses and benefits of limu. Many of these organizations look to Hawaii for advice and guidance.
For the rest of the year, Ito and other limu advocates are planning a series of events, outreach and volunteer opportunities to raise awareness of the importance of limu. According to the governor’s proclamation, “Limu performs key ecological and economic functions, preventing coral erosion and break-up, creating oxygen, producing sand, providing food and shelter for marine animals, mitigating global warming through carbon sequestration and acting as the basis of the food-web on which local fisheries rely.
KUA, DLNR and other partners are planning a series of events, outreach and volunteering opportunities to help raise awareness about Limu:
- Limu calendar year
- Reprint of “The Limu Eater” by Heather Fortner
- Host monthly Limu education and awareness events at various beaches across the state
- Organize a “Limu Day” event at the Bishop Museum
- Propose a Limu state this legislative session
- Series of limu stories to be released throughout the year
Ryan Okano of DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) provided more information on the limu in Hawai’i. “All over the world, especially near coastal regions, algae are fundamental. As a food source, it seems mainstream American culture is discovering something native coastal communities have known for centuries. Seaweed is extremely nutritious.
Historically in Hawaii, seaweed or limu was a consistent facet of a simplistic. nutritious diet. In addition to food, limu traditionally has other uses, including medicine and cultural ceremonies. Immigrants who came to Hawaii continued to use seaweed similar to their root crops. However, some uses have been developed within the modern multicultural setting of Hawai’i, such as recipes, art, and fertilizers.
DAR Administrator Brian Neilson added, “Limu still looms large in modern Hawai’i, but many feel it is underused and undervalued in the context of culture, community, trade and human health. We want to make a concerted effort, especially in this ‘Year of Limu’, to broaden the use and appreciation of limu. One way to address the underutilization of limu is to provide communities with more opportunities to harvest limu, for consumption, medicine or cultural use. We hope to enhance these opportunities through limu restoration projects.
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(All images/videos courtesy of DLNR)
HD Video – Hatchery raised limu at Anuenue Fisheries Research Center, SOTS (February 24, 2022):
(SOTS – Wally Ito and David Coehn – DAR Anuenue Fisheries Research Center)
Photographs – Hatchery raised limu at the Anuenue Fisheries Research Center (February 24, 2022):
Senior Communications Manager
Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources