Toau, or blacktail snapper, is named after its dark reddish black tail fringed with white. Their native range is quite extensive, from the Indian Ocean to Southern Japan and Australia. However, the species was introduced to Hawai’i from Tahiti in 1956. In Hawai’I, they are considered an invasive species that competes with native species for food and habitat.
Toau is orange-brown or brownish to pale yellow-white in color. The tail and dorsal fins are dark reddish black. The anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are yellow. Their scales are yellow with brownish margins. Toau also have a distinct yellow color above the eye. When young, they have four longitudinal blue stripes along their bodies resembling their close cousin, the Bluestripe Snapper. Their low market price means they aren’t heavily targeted by commercial fishermen.
Toau reach sexual maturity between 8 and 10 inches, or three to four years of age. Adults are estimated to spawn from April to October, around the full moon as well as the last quarter moon. Adults inhabit shallow lagoons to semi-protected coral reefs and prefer deep holes and caves. Adult Toau usually travel by themselves or small schools. As a result, they are not as competitive as their cousin, the Ta‘ape. Because of this, Toau are considered less harmful of an invasive species as the Ta‘ape. They feed predominately at night on small fish such as small goatfish and damselfish as well as invertebrates such as small crab and lobster.
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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