Category Archives: In The Water

Wedgetail Triggerfish

The wedgetail triggerfish is the state fish of Hawaii

This is the state fish of Hawaii and while its official name is straightforward, in Hawaii it’s called the Humuhumu-nukunuku-ā-pua’a, which is actually easier to pronounce than it looks.

The fish is also known as the Picasso Triggerfish, a reference to its bold colors and markings.

Hawaiian Gregory

An endemic Hawaiian Gregory in the waters off Hawaii

This endemic damselfish is mostly black or brown with a mottled distribution of light and dark scales, but it’s easily identified by its yellow eyes. It eats filamentous algae and is said to ‘farm’ the algae in its territory, which it defends vigorously against other algae-eaters after its crop.

Signs: Shark sighted

A sign on a beach at Kawaihae, Hawaii

This sign stands behind the little beach below Puʻukoholā Heiau at Kawaihae. Typically, When a shark is sighted, a temporary warning sign is put up, then removed after a few days. This sign is permanent. The reason for this is that beyond this beach is Pelekane Bay and that’s the site of an underwater heiau dedicated to sharks.

This heiau, called Hale o Kapuni, was built by a chief for whom sharks were considered carriers of the spirits of his ancestors. Human sacrifices were carried out on the beach and afterwards, the bodies were believed to have been placed at the heiau for the sharks. Those days are long gone, but the bay and surrounding area is still home to a large population of sharks, hence the sign.

For more information, go to https://www.nps.gov/puhe/index.htm

Convict Tangs and a Surge Wrasse

A surge wrasse swims in front of a school of convict tangs in the waters off Hawaii

I was photographing this school of Convict Tangs when I saw this initial phase Surge Wrasse swimming in the opposite direction. This is not a fish I see too often and it’s one which my fish book describes as ‘one of the most difficult Hawaiian fish to photograph.’ I think this is because of its scarcity and it’s tendency to spend a lot of its time close to shore in shallow, surging water.

A Manta Ray zips by

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

It’s been quite a while since I last saw a Manta Ray while snorkeling, so I was thrilled a few days ago when I saw a familiar shape heading towards me. It was low down in the water and when it saw me it veered away a bit, carrying on at a good clip despite swimming into the current running that day.

The manta was big, with a 10 to 12 foot wingspan, and a lot of pale markings on top. It seemed in good shape though its left wingtip appeared to be permanently curled up. I hoped it might slow down or turn, but that was not to be and it soon disappeared to the south.

Yellowfin Goatfish

Yellowfin goatfishes swimming in the waters off Hawaii

Yellowfin Goatfishes often hang out in large schools close to shore, providing a splash of color against the rocks. I like seeing how the schools just seem to move as one. If I came back as a fish, I’d be bumping into other fish left, right, and center.

Yellowfin goatfishes swimming in the waters off Hawaii

Being watched

An assortment of fish on the reef in Hawaii

While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.