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Aquaculture

This week's Arts and Culture card in Conquest of Paradise is the Aquaculture card.

The Polynesian people practiced aquaculture in many ways. They controlled natural pools, ponds, and lakes, and created man-made ponds, enclosures, traps, and dams, for the culture and harvest of various marine resources. This ensured year-round food availability and maximized yields. Fishponds held and fattened fish captured in the sea, and served as a source of fish when they could not be caught.

Nowhere else in Polynesia was true aquaculture developed in the types and numbers found in prehistoric Hawaii. Probably the earliest aquacultural system in ancient Hawaii consisted of simple fishtraps, dams, weirs, and natural pools. The Hawaiians ultimately developed the more dependable and efficient ponds; at least 400 ponds were constructed during prehistoric times.

Ancient Hawaii's aquatic food production system included structures built to catch mature fish as well as structures and practices related to true aquaculture. These latter structures existed throughout the islands, and included numerous manmade and natural enclosures of water in which fish and other products were raised. Hawaiian tradition associates a large number of ponds with particular chiefs who directed their construction. Ownership of one or more fishponds was a symbol of chiefly status and power. Accessibility to some prehistoric fishponds and their products was limited to the elite minority- the chiefs and priests. These ponds were kapu to the commoners.

In areas where broad, shallow fringe reefs existed close to shore, ponds could be formed by constructing semicircular stone walls arcing from the shoreline. Where natural ponds occurred in lava basins along the shore, the addition of walls and gates made these operational as fishponds.

Although many different kinds of fish filled these ponds, the main inhabitants were mullet ('ama'ama) and milkfish (awa). The algae they fed on grew best when sunlight, salt, and fresh water combined in just the right proportions. Therefore, these walled fishponds needed to be shallow so that sunlight could penetrate. Ponds were often located near the mouths of streams, so that fresh water could combine with ocean water within its walls. The larger a pond's acreage, the greater the rate of evaporation, and the greater the need for a supply of fresh water that could be diverted into the pond when necessary. Balancing the salinity, the food supply for the fish, the temperature, and other environmental needs was important to the success of the fishpond.

Often stones with seaweed attached were set in the ponds to increase their food supply. Because neither of these fish reproduced in ponds, fingerlings captured in the ocean were deposited in the pond to augment supplies. Predators such as barracudas and eels had to be eliminated. In addition, excess ocean catches were allowed to grow in the ponds and then recaptured for consumption.

In game terms, the Aquaculture card provides its owner one Victory Point. It also gives the player one free Improved Agriculture marker, for use on any island group that requires such a marker to fully utilize its Village potential.


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