Scientists Return From Papahanaumokuakea

Published On: Oct 14 2011 12:46:16 AM HST   Updated On: Oct 14 2011 08:47:10 PM HST

For 14 days, a group of scientists traveled on this ship called the Searcher to explore and study the marine life of Papahanaumokuakea, also known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"What we found was a tremendous density of opihi and the morphological shape shell shape and color became different as we moved up the archipelago," said Chris Bird, a University of Hawaii Marine Biologist.

Bird and a team of researchers have been studying Opihi for three years by making visits to the isolated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"What we can do is get an idea of what these populations look like minus the impact of human harvesting and that can give us a better idea of what our targets should be in terms of conservation and sustainable fisheries on the main islands," said Bird.

According to Bird, Oahu has 50 times less opihi compared to Papahanaumokuakea. That's a concern for some community members.

"Having a lot of opihi at your luau is hard on the resources right now especially since it's a scarce commodity," said Kehaunani Springer, a member of Bird's monitoring team.

These explorers aren't saying not to eat it, they're simply asking for moderation and to avoid waste.

"For us to make it a sustainable resource for us as a culture just have it at the dinner table," said Brian Villiarimo, a member of Bird's monitoring team.

According to Bird, there's only 10 percent of the amount of opihi that existed more than 100 years ago on Oahu.


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