Monday, July 20, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 4th week in July

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 4th week in July:

"Ka i'a a ka wai nui i lawe mai ai.
The fish borne along by the flood."

'O'opu nākea (Awaous guamensis), a freshwater goby, grows to maturity in mountain steams and pools, where it clings to boulders with a sucker in its belly and eats fallen blossoms of the 'ōhi'a lehua. About this time, it comes downstream to spawn, often riding the run-off of a heavy rain known as ua ho'opala 'ōhi'a, "the rain that ripens the mountain apples."

Traditionally, 'o'opu were trapped in nets as they washed past, or a stream was temporarily diverted into adjacent lowlands, where fish could be gathered easily or stocked for future consumption. Unfortunately, overfishing and human interference with streams have made 'o'opu scarce, and today state regulations prohibit catching them with traps or weirs.

These small fish have been a Hawaiian delicacy for centuries, and among freshwater varieties, o'opu nākea are considered outstanding in both taste and size (as large as twelve inches). Chubby cheeks and bulging eyes make o'opu nākea resemble lizards, and thus they were kapu to families having the mo'o, a legandary giant reptile as their 'aumākua.

For more info about o'opu nākea, visit the Bishop Museum's Waipi'o Valley Stream Restoration Study page. While you're there, check out the other creatures that call Hawaiian streams home.

*The above information was correct as of 1989. For more information about state regulations on fishing, including permitting and licenses, please visit DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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