Christopher Scharpf wrote:
> Stephanie and I just returned from 10 days on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
> Here are my "collecting" notes from the trip.
> Hawai'i is home to five species of indigenous freshwater gobies (four
> species, three of which are endemic, from Gobiidae, and one endemic species
> from Eleotridae). They are collectively referred to as 'o'opu and presumably
> live in the same stream, but at different elevations. Unfortunately, I did
> not do my homework to find out where precisely 'o'opu can be found. I knew
> they were on the windward side of the island and that I was on the leeward
> side, on the Kona Coast. We called a company that gives nature tours through
> the rainforest on the windward side of the island near Hilo, asking if they
> could take us to a site where we could snorkel to see 'o'opu. They said
> their tours were at elevations too high for 'o'opu to reach (even though one
> species, Lentipes concoler, is known to climb the 400-foot high Akaka
> Falls.) Instead, the tour company recommended that we snorkel Kolekole
> Stream, which empties into the Pacific at Kolekole State Beach.
> The drive from Kona to Kolekole State Beach took a couple of hours and was
> most pleasant. It was fascinating to see how quickly the terrain switched
> from desert scrub (complete with cacti) to lush, orchid-filled rainforest as
> we climbed the mountain. As we parked at Kolekole we saw a local coming out
> of the stream.
> "What's the temperature?" I asked. Since Hawai'i freshwater streams are fed
> by snowmelt and rain, I knew they would be colder than the tropical Pacific.
> "Around fifty," he said.
> "Yikes," I said. If I wanted to see 'o'opu it was going to hurt.
> The man then asked us why we were here.
> "To see 'o'opu," we replied.
> The man -- we never got his name -- was truly surprised to hear this. He had
> never before met tourists who wanted to see 'o'opu. He thought only locals
> knew that 'o'opu existed.
> "There are no 'o'opu here," he said, in a bizarre accent and speech pattern
> that must have been the model for Jar-Jar Binks. (40% of what he said was
> unintelligible.) "All the 'o'opu are gone. Eaten by the Malaysian prawn."
> The prawn was introduced by Filipinos, he said, as a source of food.
> "Just curious, what were you doing in the stream?" I asked.
> "Setting traps," he said, to catch prawns, which he uses as bait. He showed
> us his homemade traps. A gallon milk jug with its bottom cut out and its
> sides folded inward, which is then placed into a bigger plastic jug, like
> the ones scoopable kitty litter come in, which also has its bottom cut out.
> The trap is baited with coconut and is sunk underneath a rock with the
> bottom facing upstream, into the current. Water flows through the trap,
> exiting through the top of the smaller jug. The prawns enter the bottom of
> the big jug and are trapped between it and the small jug. Quite simple and
> ingenious. (I wonder if it would work for minnows?)
> Anyhow, he said the water in Kolekole Stream was too high and turbid to see
> anything anyway, since it had recently rained up in the mountains. I decided
> to have a look anyway. Sure enough, the stream was cold and full of
> whitewater rapids. It was hard to find calmer pool-like areas to stick my
> head in. And when I did, visibility was restricted to just a few inches in
> front of my mask. Jar-Jar Binks was right. Not an 'o'opu was to be found.
> Nor did I see any prawn. But I did catch a glimpse of a silvery minnow-like
> fish, which I later identified as a Hawaiian flagtail fish (Kuhlia
> sandvicensis). Juveniles of this marine fish, known locally as aholehole,
> occasionally enter fresh water.
> We left the stream hoping to snorkel other ones during our drive, but
> decided against it when we saw just how deep into the gorges the streams
> were. Sure, we could climb down the gorges. But since everything was wet, I
> doubted we would be able to climb out. Still, we enjoyed the scenery,
> especially the 400 foot falls at Akaka Falls State Park. (And to think that
> one species of 'o'opu can actually climb it!)
> Should we visit the Big Island again -- and every indication is that we will
> -- I will do my homework and pin down accessible locations were 'o'opu can
> be seen.
> Of course, there are MILLIONS of fish to see in Kona, along its coral reefs.
> We snorkeled at three locations, the best by far of which was the site in
> Kealakekua Bay where Captain Cook landed and later was killed. A white
> obelisk on a small parcel of land (legally the land of England) marks the
> location. Since it is not accessible by car, not may snorkelers visit the
> site, which may explain why the water was so clear and the fish so amazingly
> abundant. (We rented kayaks and paddled a mile-and-half to get there.) It
> was truly breathtaking to swim inches away from green sea turtles, and
> within a shoal containing 100+ fat yellow tangs.
> I'm no expert on coral reef fishes, so the following list reflects only a
> small portion of the total fish diversity we saw. Unlike sampling in
> freshwater, where you can catch a fish and identify it on land with an ID
> book in hand, it's difficult to catch a coral reef fish. (And illegal, too,
> since we were snorkeling in protected marine preserves.) So the following
> list includes only those species which I could visually identify with 100%
> certainty (basically bigger fishes that swim higher in the water column) and
> largely excludes the smaller wrasses and basslets which dart in and out of
> the coral.
> threadfin butterflyfish ..... Chaetodon auriga
> ornate butterflyfish ..... Chaetodon ornatissimus
> fourspot butterflyfish ..... Chaetodon quadrimaculatus
> longnose butterflyfish ..... Forcipiger longirostris
> I was surprised to see an all-black form of this familiar species, and
> initially thought it was a different species entirely. I later learned that
> this species exhibits a black phase which is common on the Kona Coast of the
> Big Island, but rare elsewhere. The explanation for the black phase is
> unknown, and is said to revert back to the yellow phase in captivity.
> moorish idol ..... Zanchus cornutus
> yellow tang ..... Zebrasoma flavescens
> One of the most common and easily the most conspicuous fishes on the reef. I
> was surprised to see how stout they were, compared to the thin specimens for
> sale in the aquarium trade. Obviously captive specimens never get enough
> whitespotted surgeonfish ..... Acanthurus guttatus
> achilles tang ..... Acanthurus achilles
> goldrim tang ..... Acanthurus nigricans
> convict tank ..... Acanthurus sandvicensis
> goldring surgeonfish ..... Ctenochaetus strigosus
> bluespine surgeonfish ..... Naso unicornis
> sergeant major ..... Abudefduf abdominalis
> blackspot damselfish ..... Abudefduf sordidus
> brighteye damselfish ..... Plectroglyphidodon imparipennis
> Christmas wrasse ..... Thalassoma trilobatum
> saddle wrasse ..... Thalassoma duperrey
> yellowtail coris ..... Coris gaimard
> Saw juvenile, which resemble clownfishes. Adults look nothing like the
> bird wrase ..... Gomphosus varius
> cleaner wrasse ..... labroides phthirophagus
> bullethead parrotfish ..... Chlororus sordidus
> spectacled parrotfish ..... Clororus perspicillatus
> black triggerfish ..... Melichthys niger
> pinktail triggerfish ..... Melichthys vidua
> Picasso triggerfish ..... Rhincanthus rectangulus
> State fish of Hawai'i and common t-shirt subject. Local name is humuhumu
> nukanuke apua'a.
> whiteline triggerfish ..... Sufflamen bursa
> peacock grouper ..... Cephalopholis argus
> Introduced from French Polynesia in the 1950s as a food fish. Even in the
> coral reef there are exotics!
> stripebelly puffer ..... Arothron hispidus
> spotted puffer ..... Arothron meleagris
> whitespotted toby ..... Canthigaster jactator
> spotted trunkfish ..... Ostracion meleagris
> manybar goatfish ..... Parupenus multifasciatus
> yellowstripe goatfish ..... Mulloidicithys flavolineatus
> trumpetfish ..... Aulostomus chinensis
> Saw both the brown and yellow phases.
> cornetfish ..... Fistularia commersonii
> Stephanie saw one that was close to 5 feet long!
> sharpnose mullet ..... Neomyxus leuciscus
> whitemouth moray ..... Gymnothorax meleagris
> I bought one of these disposable underwater cameras and took a roll of
> shots. If any turn out I'll post them for you to see.
> For now, here's a shot of me and a beachcomber.
> Chris Scharpf
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/ reflect the beliefs or goals of the North American Native Fishes
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/ nanfa_at_aquaria.net. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or get help, send the word
/ subscribe, unsubscribe, or help in the body (not subject) of an email to
/ nanfa-request_at_aquaria.net. For a digest version, send the command to
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/ For more information about NANFA, visit our web page, http://www.nanfa.org