Scientists Return from Assessing ‘Opihi Populations in Papahānaumokuākea

I’m a little obsessed with `opihi, so when I read that NOAA scientists aboard the research vessel M/V Searcher just returned to on Oʻahu on September 25 after monitoring ‘opihi populations and other rocky intertidal organisms in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), I had to blog about it and share a fraction of some of the amazing photos NOAA shared.

`Opihi on Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

My obsession isn’t actually about eating opihi, though I do, and I love it. It's something I developed after visiting Kahoolawe in 2014 and somehow developing an association between the limpet (which grows with wild abandon there) and this very special place.

This year marks the ninth annual intertidal monitoring expedition, which integrates cultural knowledge and practices with western science to assess and better understand the shorelines and shallow waters of high islands within PMNM. Randy Kosaki, Ph.D., was the NOAA Chief Scientist on the team. Sheldon Plentovich, Ph.D., was the USFWS Biologist.

`Opihi on Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

The ‘opihi expert was Kanoe Morishige, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Ph.D. Student; the ‘opihi spawning expert was Anthony Mau, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Ph.D. Student.

`Opihi on Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Participants surveyed Nihoa, Mokumanamana, and La Perouse Pinnacle at French Frigate Shoals. This ongoing research, led by members of the ‘Opihi Partnership, a public-private collaborative partnership consortium, continues to provide managers with insights into how to make better-informed management decisions concerning harvesting of intertidal species in the main Hawaiian Islands.

Team members had about two days to survey the intertidal areas at each site, engaging in a wide range of protocol addressing natural as well as cultural health and wellness. One focus of the expedition was to determine what proportion of ‘opihi (Hawaiian limpet) populations are actually spawning at this time of year.

Nihoa in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

‘Opihi is a Hawaiian delicacy and culturally important species whose numbers have been dwindling in the main Hawaiian Islands due to overharvesting. This research aims to help develop sustainable harvest protocols over time.

In addition, this year, participants conducted the first rigorous scientific investigation of the limu (algae) along the rocky intertidal habitats in the Monument. Lauren Van Heukelem, a phycologist (limu specialist) from the Waikīkī Aquarium was on board to lead this work. This was the first time shallow rocky intertidal and subtidal fish surveys have been conducted in this habitat.

School of chubs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Nā Maka o Papahānaumokuākea, a Hawaii-based nonprofit organization, led Huli‘ia, a method to collect detailed, holistic observations based on traditional knowledge systems that build intimate knowledge of the surrounding environment. The creation of seasonal calendars is one product born from Huli‘ia where connections are drawn on between dominant patterns in the atmosphere, land and ocean. It is a collaborative effort to strengthen place-based knowledge and re-establish healthy relationships between people and place.

Whitetip reef sharks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Members of the expedition also included staff from NOAA and the University of Hawai‘i as well as representatives of coastal communities (Hana, Kipahulu, Miloli‘i, and Kaua‘i) involved in sustainably managing their own ‘opihi stocks. USFWS biologists conducted studies on endangered species on Nihoa.

School of chub in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Courtesy: Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Papahānaumokuākea is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of Northwestern Hawaiian Island ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations. Four co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, State of Hawai‘i and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs – protect this special place. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was inscribed as the first mixed (natural and cultural) UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States in July 2010. For more information, visit www.papahanaumokuakea.gov or www.facebook.com/Papahanaumokuakea.

 

(Visited 40 times, 41 visits today)

Leave a Reply