Leonard Young’s gift to WCC students


Instructor Young shows a tilapia from a fish farm tank located next to Hale Uluwehi.

You can usually find Leonard Young pampering the enthusiastic, frolicking, hungry tilapia down at the fish tanks near Hale Uluwehi. With his years of experience, he can take one look at the condition of the water and tell you exactly how the tilapia are doing.

Young teaches Aquaculture 106/106L and Hawaiian Fishponds 201/201L here at Windward. He’s officially retired, yet he continues to teach at WCC.

Young says he wants to pass on his knowledge and experiences to the next generation. “It’s an important message because this is a means by which they can feed themselves in an efficient and sustainable manner without much cost,” he explains.

Young’s credentials and expertise in the “real world” stretch from the islands to as far away as Lebanon and Southeast Asia. He attended the University of Hawai‘i, the University of South Carolina and Texas A&M, where he received his doctorate in zoology.

From 1980 to 1986, Young taught marine biology and animal physiology at the American University of Beirut during Lebanon’s civil unrest.

The faculty and staff attempted to work normally as best they could, but he says it was tense.

From 1987 to 2009, Young was a part of the aquaculture program under the Department of Agriculture (DOA) for the State of Hawaii. He helped develop the aquaculture industry locally and provided support for the private sector.

Young has also done environmental consulting, including building a bioassay facility to test dredged sediments, and taught physiology to graduate students who later did major consulting for Latin America and Southeast Asia for shrimp farming.

Young says aquaculture is at the home garden stage. Commercially, it hasn’t taken off, even though there are companies trying to do it. He is waiting to hear if any company is actually making a profit.

While Young was working for the DOA as an aquaculture specialist, he supervised projects on Hawaiian fishponds on Molokaʻi. He looked at all the money invested in these projects and didn’t feel like they had gotten a fair return for their investments.

With that in mind, Young decided to continue teaching about Hawaiian fishponds. He wants to convince students that they need to take more of an active role in what happens to the fishponds. He says with conviction, “I’d like to see the fishponds restored and used as a living entity, not to be left as a monument or an icon.”

Originally, the fishponds were built to provide food for the ali’i and food for the commoners in time of famine. “In the modern context, it can serve as a place to produce food for everyone,” Young explains. Aquaculture and Hawaiian fishponds are not the only things Young is interested in. He has some rather intriguing hobbies, which he loves to share with others. One hobby is drinking Chinese teas.

As Young prepares his brew, he follows a detailed process to optimize the experience.

Young fills the teapot halfway with dried tea leaves and pours hot water to rinse the leaves. He then puts on the tea pot lid and proceeds to pour hot water over the entire pot to seal in the essence. Young then watches the water evaporate over the teapot. At the appropriate level of steepness, he pours the tea.

Young compares the tea to “drinking espresso.” He says you should be able to taste the body of the tea in your mouth, tongue and lips and take in the aroma as well. Young usually accompanies his teas with homemade breads that he made for the occasion.

Young says, “It’s a pleasant pastime to be sitting down, sipping tea and listening to classical jazz” from the audio system he built.

Young loves old-fashioned audio amplifiers with tubes. He has been putting together audio systems since he was in high school and learned through trial and error. Young built his speakers that are meant to be used with his single-ended amplifier. The speakers are a 1930s design, tall and triangular in shape.

He admits he may have some interesting hobbies, but Young says what he wants most is to have his students learn enough about aquaculture and Hawaiian fishponds to go out and do it on their own.

Young says, “I could stay home in my cave, but I wouldn’t be able to share my knowledge with the students of the future.”

by Wayne Ricks, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter