Native Animals: Native Stream Animals

In this final section of native animals, we will look at the native animals in the streams of Nawiliwili Bay. In addition, we describe their life cycles and favorite sections of the stream.
Native Stream Animals uses text and photos from the Division of Aquatic Resources Web site: Hawaiian Stream Animals - the Mauka to Makai Connection. We also excerpt Samson Mahuiki's praise to the 'o'opu, and 'olelo no'eau from Pacific World's beyond excellent website on Ha'ena, by RDK Herman; also text from Nancy Merril's Limahuli Garden: A Window to Ancient Hawai'.
Before human arrival, the five streams of Nawiliwili Bay had five native fish species of 'o'opu (four endemic, one indigenous), two endemic species of opae (crustaceans), and three endemic species of opihi (limpets).
'O'opu hi'ukole or 'o'opu alamo'o - endemic, found in the upper streamreaches.
The guidebook to Limahuli Gardens explains that "These fish, ‘o‘opu, evolved from saltwater ancestors in the goby family. Although ‘o‘opu live in freshwater streams as adults, their fertilized eggs wash downstream, and young ‘o‘opu must spend the first several months of their lives in the ocean." This is also true of the young of the opae and opihi.
'O'opu nopili - endemic. Usually
found in middle stream reaches
with fast flowing water.
The guide book continues, "Four of the ‘o‘opu species have a very interesting and useful adaptation. Their pelvic fins are fused together to form a suction cup which helps them fasten to rocks, the stream bottom, and even to climb waterfalls." The distribution of 'o'opu along the stream is believed to be influenced by their climbing ability with this suction cup.
'O'opu nakea - indigenous. Found
in the lower to middle stream
There are many Hawaiian sayings about the mighty 'o'opu:
"Ka i‘a a ka wai nui i lawe mai ai."
The fish borne along by the flood
The ‘o‘opu, which was often carried to the lowlands in freshets.
‘Olelo No‘eau #1323
"Ka i‘a ko‘eko‘e o ka ‘ili i ka wai."

The fish that chills one's skin in the water.
The ‘o‘opu, usually found in upland streams.
‘Olelo No‘eau #1355
'O'opu naniha - endemic. Found in the estuaries and lower stream reaches, preferring soft bottoms.
Itinerant geographer of indigenous peoples RDK Herman shares a conversation with Samson Mahuiki of Hanalei about the 'o'opu:
"The other thing we used to do when we like ‘o‘opu, if our mother like ‘o‘opu, we block the stream. Take taro-patch stone, wad them with the stone and mud, and with a slap, plug them with the mud and seal them. Just put stone wall and plaster there, and dry them out. Then go pick them up. Half an hour. Just pick up the kind kicking. The ones in the pond, don't even bother with them. Pick up enough, then you go back there and open up the water. Send somebody to open every thing. Whatever you never pick up, you leave them for the next guy. So everybody tell me, "eh, we catch plenty ‘o‘opu!" I don't say nothing. You don't know how this catching ‘o‘opu!"
'O'opu akupa or 'O'opu okuhe -
endemic. Found in estuaries and lower stream reaches.
Samson continues his praise to the 'o'opu:
"Eat them while they in season. Cause you not gonna get them afterwards. Eat till you filled. Old folks, they like them steamed, or boiled, or lawalu. I like em fried, I like em speed--I just fry them. Ono, though, whenever you eat em, ono--tasty. I put in a bit of salt, and ti leaf. Oh, that aroma is something, that taste!" (From Pacific World's web site Ha'ena, by RDK Herman)
Other tasty residents of the freshwater streams include two endemic species of opae. (crustaceans or shrimp)
'Opae kala'ole or 'opae kuahiwi
Usually found in the upper stream
reaches in fast flowing water.
Opae 'oeha'a - found in the
estuary and lower stream reaches.
Even more unassuming than the opae are the
three endemic species of opihi (limpets). Like the 'o'opu and opae, the young of the opihi spend part of their life in the ocean and return to the stream for their adult life. This is called diadromy.
Pipiwai - found in brackish (fresh and salt mix) water near the sea shore.
Hapawai - found in the estuary
and lower stream reaches.

Dennis Kamakahi has written a wonderful song about the hihiwai - "E Hihiwai".
The chorus says:
"E hihiwai la lae lae, e ho'i mai kaua la
o ka 'aina uluwehi
O Wailau"
O hihiwai tra la la
Come back to me
To the lush and beautiful land of
Hihiwai - largest of the
three opihi, found in the
lower and middle stream
Robert Nishimoto, of the Division of Aquatic Resources, has this to say:
"Maintaining the natural patterns of water flow in streams is the single most important requirement for protection of native Hawaiian stream animals. These natural flows will keep the river mouth open and provide the gateway for our precious native stream animals to complete their life cycle. Hawaiian native stream life, like the native Hawaiian people who depended on the streams, embody the connection of Mauka (mountain) to Makai (ocean) that defines the Hawaiian ecosystem."
Photo by David Boynton. Casey Riemer of Jack Harter
Helicopters, pilot.
These are the native stream animals at Nawiliwili Bay. They are a part of a larger group of native animals that are found only in these Hawaiian Islands. How did Hawaiian settlers affect these native animals and ecosystems? In the next section, we will look at the effects of the Hawaiian ahupua'a system of land use.
Created June 2001