Hawaiian goatfish get their name from two long chemosensory barbels that protrude out of their chins like whiskers on a goat. Three species are common in Hawaii including yellowstripe goatfish (Mulloidichthys flavolineatus), yellowfin goatfish (Mulloidichthys vanicolensis) and Manybar goatfish (Parupeneus multifasciatus). They range from the Indian to Pacific Oceans and inhabit nearshore reefs shallower than 100 metres.
Yellowstripe goatfish, or Weke ‘a’a in Hawaiin, are grey to olive back, fading to white on the sides. They are known by their distinct yellow stripes and a dark spot below the dorsal fin. Yellowfin goatfish, or Wele ‘ula in Hawaiian, get their name by their red-orange color and distinct yellow fins. And Manybar goatfish, or Moano in Hawaiian, have a grey to red body with two black bars on its body. The color between these bars is a pale grey red and sometimes white. Goatfish are prized eating, often tasting like shrimp which is their main source of food.
Yellowstripe and yellowfin goatfish are schooling species and inhabit sandy bottoms of reef inshore reefs. In the summer months, large schools of juveniles, called Oama in Hawaiian, inhabit the shallow reef flats. It has been found that goatfish spawn year round in Hawaii, with heavier spawning from February through June. Goatfish also have the ability to change colors to blend in with their surroundings. At night when they are sleeping on the ocean floor, they often change their color to blend in with the sand. Weke ‘a’a are known to change colors to yellow and blue while swimming with striped snappers (Ta’ape). Goatfish use these "whiskers" to dig through sediment and sand in search of small invertebrates and fish for food.
This fishery uses a variety of artisanal methods to catch reef fish, including handlines, and pole and lines. Catch rates are low, usually only a few pounds per hour with little bycatch (discards). These small-scale fishing methods are similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.
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