Scientists fine-tune opihi counting methods
By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU — Scientists have developed a more accurate way of measuring populations of opihi, a Hawaii delicacy and fixture of first birthday baby luau and graduation parties in the islands.
Researchers used an Android cellphone app and GPS to help them count each opihi on rocky shorelines within parts of the federally protected Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
This allowed them to count more opihi more quickly than before.
Lead researcher Chris Brown of Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, said Wednesday that scientists aim to assess monument opihi populations and how they vary over time.
They also plan to measure the genetic diversity of opihi populations.
The prized limpets are overharvested in the Main Hawaiian Islands, where Hawaii’s humans live, and are now rarely found on Oahu.
A gallon of opihi can go for $150 to $200.
Brown said the team’s research on the genetics of different opihi will allow scientists to understand how human harvesting affects populations and how opihi move around different geographic areas.
It will also enable them to identify what places serve as opihi nurseries and thus are important for the replenishment of opihi populations. This could help regulators protect these zones and lead to the recovery of opihi populations.
In the remote, pristine environment of the monument, researchers saw thousands of opihi stretching out in front of them, Hoku Johnson, principal investigator on the research expedition, said.
At Mokumanamana Island, she counted 1,000 within the span of her outstretched arms.
“And I’m 5 feet, 6 inches tall,” said Johnson, who is also the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting deputy superintendent of policy and programs for the monument.
This is what the Main Hawaiian Islands must have looked like 150 to 200 years ago, before overharvesting, she said. “There’s opihi everywhere. I’m an Oahu girl, so you don’t see that here.”
Johnson hopes that one day in the future, the Main Hawaiian Islands will look that way again.
“Opihi will come back if we can figure out a way to manage them appropriately,” she said.
The research is part of a broader, multiyear study of rocky shorelines in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.