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Native Use of Fish in Hawaii


FISH, including shellfish, were the main protein-giving elements of the Hawaiian diet. Pig, dog, chicken and wild birds furnished some additional proteins but the comparatively small supply marked them more for the chiefʻs than the commonersʻ use. Daily life was one of fishing and cultivating the plantations. Fishing required a search of the sea, from the areas within the reefs to the sea scarcely within sight of land. By salting, drying, impounding, the supply was made somewhat independent of weather conditions. Care was taken to avoid waste.

The sea was a great reservoir of food for the Hawaiians and they were fond of a wide variety; probably everything edible was consumed. “There is no animal food which a Sandwich Islander esteems so much as fish,” said a visitor in 1834 (6, vol. 1, page 215). A catch was portioned out to all within the ʻohana, or related community. When there was food no one went hungry. When supplies were abundant there was hearty indulgence in the joy of eating; when scarce, endurance was eased by the knowledge that effort would bring further supplies, except for the calamity of war or the occasional periods of long stormy weather.

Chiefs became epicurean in their taste, demanding rarities, or regal service, such as the supplying of live fish from far places. Priests prescribed certain fishes as acceptable to the gods, sometimes a fish was the essential object to offer the gods as well as eat after a period of sickness, and fish were used in some other ceremonies.

Certain sea creatures, most commonly sharks, sometimes became ʻaumakua (personal gods) and were fed with regularity and recognized as individuals. Legends and

chants contain some characters that change at will to sea creatures, and there are numerous incidents in Hawaiian oral literature that reflect intimate knowledge of fish, their characteristics, habits and domain. The sea and its creatures were almost as well known as the life and attributes of land areas. In property divisions the ideal unit extended from the mountain top down to the shore and beyond into the sea, stopping only at the reef, or about a mile out, if there were no reef. In the Hawaiian mind, there was a balance between sea and land. Most of the important land creatures had counterparts in the sea which enabled priests to accept the sea counterpart for an offering to the gods if the land creature were unobtainable.

The sea was the great highway between shore localities, and between islands. Though there were trails, some paved with flat stones, the easiest way of getting from one shore area to another was by water. Therefore the bulk of the population preferred to live along the shores. Like other Polynesians, Hawaiians were able swimmers, navigators and seamen. Several early voyagers commented on their being almost amphibious.

The preparation of this paper on use of fish by Hawaiians, use dictated by attributes of their own culture, was started at the suggestion of Dr. E. S. C. Handy, Ethnologist, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, several years ago. The offering would have been small indeed without the help at every turn of Mrs. Mary Kawena Pukui, Hawaiian translator at Bishop Museum. Much material was set down from her own store and from that of her mother, Mrs. Paʻahana Wiggin, of Kaʻu, Island of Hawaii. Mrs. Pukui also segregated material as she translated legends at Bishop Museum, and all statements have been checked against her knowledge.

I am greatly indebted to the following kindly persons: to Dr. E. W. Gudger, Department of Fishes, American Museum of Natural History, for editorial comments and Mr. John T. Nichols, Department of Fishes, American Museum of Natural History, for encouragement, to Dr. Leonard P. Schultz, Curator of Fishes, U.S. National Museum, and to Dr. David Bonnet, Zoologist, formerly of the University of Hawaii, for corrections and criticisms of the descriptive list of fishes, to Mr. Vernon Brock, of the staff of the Board of Agriculture and Foresty, Honolulu, for general

biological criticism, and especially for corrections suggested for the sketches, to Dr. Douglas Oliver, Ethnologist, for criticism of the whole plan and scope, to Dr. Kenneth P. Emory, Ethnologist, Bishop Museum, for criticism of the Hawaiian lore, to Dr. John Embree, for editorial and ethnological criticism, and to one ichthyologist in the Armed Forces who read with care the statement on Hawaiian nomenclature, and who prefers to remain unacknowledged. The offered corrections were made; not all suggestions could be followed, therefore all errors and omissions are attributable to the author alone.

Many Hawaiian informants and some others gave information and a list of their names follows. I hope those who are still living will be glad to see their knowledge recorded: Lily Akana, Hilo, Hawaii; Charles Alona, Waimanalo, Oahu; Hamana Kalili, Laie, Oahu; Sarah Jacobs, Hana, Maui; Edward Kaauwana Aukai, Kualoa, Oahu; Kalokuokamaile, Kona, Hawaii; Keliikipi Kanakaole, Kaʻu, Hawaii; William K. Kinney, of Kauai and Maui; Joseph Kukea, Oahu; Lizzie Maka, Manoa, Oahu; Makahonu Naumu, Waimea, Kauai; Walanika Paka, Manoa, Oahu; William Watson, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu; Elizabeth Lahilahi Webb, Ewa and Honolulu, Oahu; Helen Kuehu, Hanalei, Kauai; George Manuia Galbraith, Kaalaea, Oahu; Joseph Kawelo, Kaalaea, Oahu; Nakuina, Honolulu, Oahu; William G. Anderson, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu; Yoshio Kondo, Honolulu, Oahu; E. Y. Hosaka, Honolulu; Thomas Maunupau, Honolulu and Kona, Hawaii, and a few others noted in the text.

The illustrations are rough sketches without scientific detail; no regard has been paid to the dorsal spine count. Inspiration for most of them is contained in Jordan and Evermannʻs work on Hawaiian fishes, a few are drawn from casts in Bishop Museum, a few from elsewhere.


Fishing was one of the constant, necessary occupations. Everyone knew how to obtain fish by various techniques. The slave, the commoner, the lesser chiefs, the high chiefs, men, women and children got food from the sea by their own efforts. For some it was a duty, for most it was also a pleasure, for the chiefs it was a favourite sport. Children

played about the shores and took what they pleased and could get from the shore pools, and shallow reef areas, and ate it when and as they pleased, raw or cooked. When old enough to follow their elders they learned by imitation how to get small fish and shellfish and limu (seaweed) from the sheltered waters, and later how to fish in deeper waters.

Every day saw many people, women in the majority, out on the reefs for hours, searching, collecting all that was edible and desirable. Calabashes tied to their persons floated along and held the catch. Doubtless the women made a merry social time of it too. To women belonged also the larger part of the task of gathering fish and shellfish from the mountain pools and streams, the ʻoʻopu (gobies) and little shrimps (ʻopae) and other varieties. This collecting was done chiefly by feeling with the hands, poking with a stick, turning over stones and logs, with a net ready to catch the animals that darted out from cover. In times of freshet, men doubtless did the work of building a platform across a stream just under high water level to sluice off the less muddy waters where the ʻoʻopu took refuge from the silt washed into the stream. These waters were led off on to a plain and the fish were stranded on the porous soil, and easily picked up (4, p. 8).

The chiefs were as fond of ocean fishing as commoners and went fishing as a pastime, either alone or with a few companions, or grandly with a large number of retainers, and with the poʻo lawaiʻa (head fisherman). Meares (68a, p. 353) notes an occasion when Kamehameha I, the most powerful chief in Hawaii, came in from a fishing party. When the first group of missionaries came to Hawaii and were trying to persuade Kamehameha II to let them settle at Oahu, Kaʻahumanu, the widow of Kamehameha I, joined the conference, “having come in from a successful fishing expedition in a double sailing canoe” (43, p. 119). Some kinds of fishing called for such a lot of gear that only chiefs or professional fishermen could use those methods. There were nets many fathoms deep, and a greater number of fathoms long, for surrounding a school of fish at sea. There was niuhi (man-eater shark) fishing that required vast amounts of bait as lure. Mrs. Beckley (4, p. 19) called it the game of kings.

Fishing as a profession belonged to the poʻo lawaiʻa and his company of apprentices. He went fishing with the chief, when that was the chiefʻs pleasure. He fished at the order of the chief, transmitted through the chiefʻs kahu (steward), or he went fishing when he wished to do so himself. Fishing was his lifeʻs occupation. He might be a chief himself, of lower rank than the high chief under whom he lived, or he might be a commoner. He was, at any rate, a man of extensive knowledge, and highly honoured. Most of his knowledge was handed down to him from an older relative or a friend. Such teachers chose their legatees with great care, and it was a pupilʻs duty to transmit his learning, augmented by his own experience, to his own chosen pupils. His knowledge comprised the techniques of manufacture and use of apparatus needed, though it was usually made for him by other craftsmen, the methods of capture, habitats of the various fish, seasons of their spawning, and of their coming and going if they were roaming fish that moved in schools, and their particular peculiarities of response to attempts at capture.

Most fishing expeditions started before dawn, the fishermen getting up and assembling silently, without speech that might offend the gods, and spoil the luck. The poʻo lawaiʻa had to know how to judge the weather, how to divine the meaning of omens in dreams and in the clouds, and how to recognise the stars as indicators of time and direction, bird flights as indicators of schools of fish―birds being rivals of fishermen in catching and consuming fish. He had to be en rapport with the gods of fishing and his own personal gods, and avoid the enmity and therefore the curses of his fellowmen. He had to know how to manipulate his canoe, how to right it at sea, as did all Hawaiians. And he had to choose and train and manage his assistants, for most fishing beyond the reef was done by fishermen in concert. On shore there might be one more member of the party, the kilo, or watcher. Posted on a high point of land, this man watched for the expected schools of fish. Like a band leader, he had his own individual manner of signalling. Some used long pieces of bamboo, and some had other aids to make themselves more easily seen, and some used only their arms. By the kiloʻs motions he steered the fleet of canoes around the school. When he ceased signalling and sat down it was equivalent to

saying, “Youʻve got it.” The kilo went to sea very little, but he did go when mālolo (flying fish) was the object of the expedition for a school of mālolo is often beyond signalling distance from shore. Mrs. Beckley says (4, p. 18) that the success of surrounding a school was entirely up to the kilo. It has been assumed by some that Hawaiians did not get far from land and did no deep-sea fishing. Beckley (4, p. 10) states that fishing canoes sometimes went “so far out from land as to be entirely out of sight of the low lands and mountain slopes and took their bearing … from the positions of the different mountain peaks … ”

The full story of methods and customs in fishing is extensive. It is certain that everyone ate fish, and fishing was a constant occupation. Kelly (50, p. 9) says, “In my opinion, no people ever lived who had a more intimate knowledge of fish and their habits, and knew so well how to catch them as the Hawaiians … ”


Though walled traps of one form or another were (and many still are) used all over the Pacific, Hawaiians developed the use of ponds to a greater extent than any other people. There were two kinds―salt water ponds (kua pā: walled in back) and fresh water ponds (haku one: heaps of sand). The building of a fishpond was a laborious undertaking, and the credit for having one constructed was so great that it is still known which chiefs were the builders of some of them. Traditionally, the stone supply for the construction was assembled by establishing a line of men between the supply and the site of the wall, and having stones passed from hand to hand along the line. About some ponds there are legends of menehunes* having constructed them.

The ponds are areas of a few to many acres enclosed by walls built across entrances to bays or indentations of the shore where the water is shallow. Or they are enclosed by walls that stretch in graceful arcs between two points of the shore. Some ponds are enclosed pounds where fish were fed and fattened, some have gates to be opened on the incoming, closed on the outgoing tide, made so as to allow small fish to

*Menehunes: supernatural people, small in stature, who did prodigious tasks, each task performed in a single night.

pass back and forth all the time but hold back the larger fish. Many ponds have now disappeared through neglect or turning the area to other uses. A few have been filled up by volcanic flows. McAllister (60:28-32) describes the construction of the Oahu ponds. He obtained information concerning 97 on Oahu, the most favoured island in this respect. Cobb (13, pp. 429-430) lists those of all islands in 1900. Beckley (4, pp. 20-21) describes kinds of ponds and how fish were taken from them.

Salt water ponds were used chiefly for storing and fattening the ʻamaʻama (mullet) and the awa (milk-fish). Stones with seaweed attached were collected and set within the ponds to increase the food supply of these herbivorous fish (Pukui). Fresh and brackish water ponds were used for the ʻoʻopu, aholehole, and for shrimps (ʻopae). In modern times the introduced gold-fish, china-fish, and carp were added (41, p. 375). Already mentioned are the inland streams. Kauai is the island most favoured with streams, and the ʻoʻopu of this island were famous. Inland ponds were built along stream beds, so that water could be diverted through them; others were near enough to the shore to allow tide water to seep in and out. The only large natural inland lagoon was Pearl Harbour (old name: Puʻuloa) and it was famous for its fish and fishponds (80). Inland pools, which were more numerous before waters were led off for modern irrigation projects, constituted natural ponds. Some of these pools were reserved for the exclusive use of chiefs. One more storage place for fish was the taro patches. Taro was so much used as food that almost every valley floor was devoted to the cultivation of this plant. Wet land taro demanded fields actually under water constantly flowing. By an elaborate system of irrigation, waters were led from the mountains down through these acres of taro fields. The taro patches made excellent subsidiary fish ponds for ʻoʻopu and shrimps which could be caught as needed. Mrs. Pukui tells of the exciting times children had when a patch was drained to be replanted. They were allowed to go into the pond to mill about, stirring up the mud as much as possible. This did not suit the ʻoʻopu, which demanded clear water for breathing. Up would pop their snouts as the water got roiled and there was a merry time catching the fish as they emerged.


The first fish caught was always reserved for the gods and offered on the altar of the fish god on shore as soon as the canoe landed. McAllister (60, pp. 15-16) noted many remains of koʻa, or fishermenʻs temples, along the shores of Oahu; Bennett (7, pp. 48-49) has noted them on Kauai. After fish were offered, or set aside for offering by giving them to the priest, the best fish of the catch were set aside for the chief in an amount to provide generously for his personal needs and those of his numerous household. Then the various kahuna (recognized experts in branches of learning), next the konohiki (chiefʻs agent and overseer), and finally the people received their share. Division was made according to need, rather than as reward or payment for share in the work of fishing. Thus all were cared for. Anyone assisting in any way had a right to a share. Anyone who came up to the pile of fish and took some, if it were only a child, was not deprived of what he took, even if he had no right to it. It was thought displeasing to the gods to demand the return of fish taken without the right. What Hawaiians thought sometimes about this inevitable sharing of a hard won catch may be known from the following lines from the legend of Niho-o-leki (25, Vol. 1, pp. 492-494):―

The current is flowing towards Makaʻena,

Where swarm the aku,

Where the giving would be a pleasure,

When the worthless could have a share,

When the hungry of the uplands of Waiahulu could have a share.

Sharing the catch had one restriction―what was taken was supposed to be for oneʻs own use. Absent members would be cared for. Perhaps a messenger, a child, or relative would ask for the share and take it to the absent member.


Shore localities differed greatly in varieties of fish, and some became famous in chant and tale for their specialties. Variety in foods was appreciated and journeys were made to get that for which there was a wish or craving. Chiefs had only to command, and servants procured what was wanted. Commoners procured what they wanted by a kind of courtesy

barter, usually within their own ʻohana, or related community. Handy and Pukui (34) have defined the ʻohana:

The fundamental unit in the social organization…was the dispersed community of ʻohana, or relatives by blood, marriage, and adoption, living some inland and some near the sea but concentrated geographically in, and tied by ancestry, birth and sentiment to a particular locality, which was called the ʻaina… Between households within the ʻohana there is constant sharing and exchange of foods and of utilitarian articles and also of services, not in barter but as voluntary (though decidedly obligatory) giving. Ohana living inland (ko kula ūka), raising taro, bananas, wauke, and olonā, and needing coconuts, gourds, and marine foods, will take a gift to some ʻohana living near the shore (ko kula kai) and in return will receive fish or whatever is needed. The fisherman needing poi or ʻawa will take fish, squid or lobster upland to a household known to have taro, and will return with his kalo or paʻi-ʻai (hard poi). A woman from seaward, wanting some medicinal plant, or some sugar cane perhaps, growing on the land of a relative living inland will take with her a basket of shellfish or some edible seaweed and will return with her stalks of cane and her medicine. In other words, it is the ʻohana that constitutes the community within which the economic life moves…

The pivot of the ʻohana is the haku (master, director), the elder male of the senior branch of the whole ʻohana. The haku divided the catch of fish amongst the households of the ʻohana which had participated in the fishing; he presided over family councils; and in general he had authority over the individuals and households in all such matters as entertaining strangers and welcoming the aliʻi, in supervising work, worship and planned communal activities. The haku was functioning head of an ʻohana. The term…has no relation to class, politics or occupation. There were haku of aliʻi (chiefly) families, or kahuna families, or fishing and planting families…

In the absence of the haku, the poʻo lawaiʻa made a division of the catch, according to Mary Pukui. The ohana system was effective in food distribution and is doubtless the cause of a seemingly entire lack of the commercial instinct, and indeed understanding of the principles of commerce in the old Hawaiians. The courtesy barter system has lasted up to the present time as a way of dealing between friends. Yet it is also true that Hawaiians caught the idea of trade very early. Menzies, botanist with Vancouver, who visited Hawaii in 1792-1794, records the following (68b, p. 177):―

When the fishing canoes came into the bay in the evening, we had an opportunity of observing their manner of traffic with one another, as the whole village and people even from other

villages flocked about them and a brisk market was kept up till they disposed of all their fish for small nails and bits of iron, and sometimes we observed that they drove very hard bargains. Of these nails the fishermen make their fish hooks, and no doubt are obliged in their turn to purchase potatoes, yams, cloth, etc., from the planters. Thus we find that nails and bits of iron here answer all the purposes of money and circulate amongst the natives in the same way that gold and silver does with us.

A system under which the exchange of goods between commoners depended on courtesy laid itself open to tricksters or practical jokers, as proved by the stories which follow. One story, found in the Fornander collection (25, Vol. 2, p. 426) concerns a man who saw some people coming down from the uplands to exchange foods. He saw them burdened with sugar cane, bananas, “and all else.” So he made a feint of having just come in from fishing. He pushed his canoe out into the water―unseen, we presume―then returned to shore and dried his net, hoping he would be seen. Evidently the mountain people were taken in, and brought him their goods, “with the thought that they would receive … However, there was nothing received because they discovered that he was not a fisherman, so the barterers lost.” Just how they retaliated is not recorded.

The second story is of Kamehameha I. According to this unrecorded tale from Mrs. Pukui, he made an agreement with a man of Kahuku (in the district of Kaʻu, island of Hawaii) that “for one calabash of poi, one fish,” and the man understood that he would get one calabash of fish. He went to the uplands, filled his calabash with poi, and came to Kamehameha, who gave him not one calabash of fish but one fish, and that a little one. Unabashed, the Kahuku man tied his one small fish to his carrying pole and went off home. All the way along his road people laughed at his one little fish dangling from his carrying pole. Our hero came again to Kahehameha with his calabash, the contents neatly covered with fresh ti leaves. He approached in the humble manner of a subject of the great king, crawling up to his presence, and he set the calabash before him. Kamehameha lifted up the ti leaves and beheld not a calabash of poi but one taro within. (Taro is the vegetable from which poi is made.) The king took the play in good part and laughed loud and long and said that they would have no more one-sided

bargains. This little story is the foundation of calling the locality where the man lived Kahuku-kau-ʻao-ʻao (one-sided Kahuku).


A knowledge of the abundance of fish and the supply procured for consumption in pre-European days can only be partially arrived at, as well as whether the supply decreased after discovery of the islands and the great changes which occurred in ways of living for the Hawaiians. With most of the population (at least 100,000) devoted to procuring enough food to eat, and considering what hearty appetites outdoor living created, it is likely that the amounts of fish obtained and needed were very large indeed, especially as land animals were not counted on as a steady part of the diet.

It is but natural to look back on the “good old days” and think of them as better. It is what some Hawaiians did as time went on after the irrevocable changes had occurred in their ways of living. In the native newspapers, the question was often asked, “Why are fish so scarce and prices so high?”

How abundant had been the supplies? Some impressions of lavish supplies for feasts are vivid. Certainly in later days there were few feasts as abundant as that recorded in 1814 by Manini,* companion and friend of Kamehameha I―“they caught among them all about 50,000 fish, and between men and women, about 10,000 were present” (71). Kamakau, a Hawaiian historian, states (47, Chap. 4, p. 34-35) that:―

In old days 400 aku (bonito) might be caught with the bait from a single mālau (small canoe to hold live bait on deep sea expeditions), and when the double canoes, fleets of single canoes, and large, single canoes came to shore, there was trading, peddling, selling for poi, for pounded taro, awa root, tapa … until the fisherman was well provided…†

A large haul of a big deep-sea net, such as the hoʻolewalewa, would fill 10 to 20 canoes.

Kamakau also makes the statement that sometimes with good luck fishermen secured “so many that they rotted and a stench arose and they had to be fed to the dogs and pigs, for

*Don Francisco de Paula y Marin.

†Actual trade commenced after European contact.

there were too many for slicing, salting, and drying. Some were even used as fuel to cook the others.” (ibid., pp. 7-8). The statement about using fish as fuel is borne out by Mrs. Pukui and her mother, Paʻahana Wiggin. In Kaʻu, a dry land where wood is scarce, an overabundance of fish, as when a large school was caught, was dried and devoted to fuel, because of its oil content.

Kamakau makes note of especially abundant years, 1830-1831. (48, Chap. 18):―

The Lord had blessed the land during those years. Fish were so plentiful, especially at Waialua and Waianae, that pigs and dogs feasted on those that rotted. On Hawaii and Kauai there was the same abundance. The fish caught were the uwiwi, the aʻuaʻu, opelu, akule, alalauwa, kala, welea, kalaliilii (also called pahikaua), heʻe kukulli… At Molokai, kawakawa, aku and ahi were simply washed up on the beach and flying fish came in huge schools. At Wailua the kahala fishing grounds were so rich a man could catch as many as 20 to 40 at one haul. Perhaps this blessing upon the land was in compensation for the difficulties into which the government was falling and the extinction of the old families of chiefs and commoners which occurred at this time.

It is difficult to guess what the everyday consumption was. But the impression remained among Hawaiians of later days that there had been plenty. One Hawaiian writes, in 1923 (75:43), that: “This (matter of fish supply) is going to be an important question for several generations, to understand why there was so much fish in the days of our ancestors and so little in our time although much meat and fish is now imported to help supply the people with food.”

To conserve the supply of all resources was constantly in the Hawaiian mind. When plants were taken from the forest, some were always left to replenish the supply. Replanting was done without fail at the proper time as beds of taro and sweet potatoes were used. Fishing grounds were never depleted, for the fishermen knew that should all the fish be taken from a special feeding spot (koʻa) other fish would not move in to replenish the area. When such a spot was discovered it was as good luck as finding a mine, and fish were fed sweet potatoes and pumpkins (after their introduction) and other vegetables so that the fish would remain and increase. When the fish became accustomed to the good spot, frequented it constantly, and had waxed fat, then the supply was drawn upon carefully. Not only draining it

completely was avoided, but also taking so many that the rest of the fish would be alarmed. At the base of this action to conserve was the belief that the gods would have been displeased by greediness or waste.

Tabus were an instrument in the conservation programme. The political power was concentrated in the upper class, the chiefs, and the laws of the land and of the sea were their edicts. The penalties for breaking tabus were heavy, often the death penalty for what seems to us a trifling fault. This held the people in a strict discipline. Besides tabus, the relationship with the gods was a powerful determinant of action. The lesser gods that each person had, personal gods, as well as the greater gods whose power was universal, were ever present. Their will was interpreted through the priests, but understood well by the people too. To conserve resources was a custom rigidly adhered to. It was the will of the chiefs, and also the will of the gods, and it was obviously wise. When a man broke this law he expected punishment from the chiefʻs agent (konohiki), if his act was detected, but punishment from the gods certainly, for no knowledge was hiddden from their perception. Man appealed to his gods for good luck, but the gods expected man to do his share in making it possible.

Besides the rule of taking only part of a supply of fish, fishing was prohibited during the spawning seasons. Perhaps the most important and well-known tabu of this sort was that governing the aku and the ʻopelu (ocean bonito and mackerel), deep sea fish that move in schools and were taken in bountiful quantity when the schools were running. Manby, one of Vancouverʻs officers, notes (64, p. 8-9) : “The present taboo Bower (?) is an invocation to the god that presides over fish; it is annually observed at this season of the year, as a notion prevails, were this ceremony neglected, the finny tribe would immediately quit the shores of Owyhee.” These two fish were important in the fish supply and, as Vancouver observed (85, Vol. III, 18): “These are not lawful to be taken at the same time.” Malo (63, p. 251) states that: “For six months of the year the ʻopelu might be eaten and the aku was tabu, and was not to be eaten by chiefs or commoners. Then again, for other six months the aku might be eaten, and the ʻopelu in turn was tabu. Thus it was every year.” The aku and ʻopelu were almost

sacred fish as, according to tradition, they had saved an early voyager coming to Hawaii from Tahiti from storms at sea by quieting the waters. “When the wind kicked up a sea, the aku would frisk and the ʻopelu would assemble together, as a result of which the ocean would entirely calm down.” (63, p. 25.) But the motive for placing the tabu was probably to protect the supply during spawning and juvenal season.

Mrs. Pukui gives an interesting account of the tabu system governing fishing seasons in her district, Kaʻu, in Hawaii:‒

There was never a time when all fishing was tabu. When inshore fishing was tabu, deep sea fishing (lawaiʻa-o-kai-uli) was permitted, and vice versa. Summer was the time when fish were most abundant and therefore the permitted time for inshore fishing. Salt was gathered at this time, also, and large quantities of fish were dried. Inland crops were tilled, and supplies from the higher lands procured. In winter, deep sea fishing was permitted, and the sweet potatoes that grew in large patches near the shore were cultivated. A tabu for the inshore fishing covered also all the growths in that area, the seaweeds, and shellfish, as well as the fish. When the kahuna had examined the inshore area, and noted the condition of the animal and plant growths, and decided that they were ready for use, that is, that the new growth had had a chance to mature and become established, he so reported to the chief of the area, and the chief ended the tabu. For several days it remained the right of the chief to have all the sea foods that were gathered, according to his orders, reserved for his use, and that of his household and retinue. After this, a lesser number of days were the privilege of the konohiki. Following this period the area was declared open (noa) to the use of all.

There are not sufficient records to tell whether districts varied greatly in this respect, or whether the rhythm of the seasons varied greatly in separate areas. The nature of the fish population doubtless necessitated special tabus in some areas.

For some fish protection was unnecessary. According to one writer (75, 43):‒

Fish such as the manini, the kole, the uhu, the kumu and the palani and the kala and many others went into sea pools to live until the tiny fish were grown. No kapus were imposed on them at the spawning season. The mullet, squid, aku, opelu and other fish bore their young in a place that was not sheltered… They were made kapu when the spawning season was near until the months for this duty were over.

In 1900, that is, not long after Hawaii became a territory of the United States, Congress provided for an investigation into “The entire subject of fisheries and the laws relating to the fishing rights in the Territory of Hawaii.” (13, pp. 353-499). The published results of this investigation are the most detailed and comprehensive work that has been done on this subject. Jordan and Evermann, who with Cobb, carried on the work, reviewed the old laws (ibid., 359-370), and suggested certain regulations (ibid., 372) which have not been fully carried out to this day.

It is evident that the earliest laws were a carry-over of the tabus. Kamehameha III promulgated the first written set of laws in 1839, and a lengthy section is devoted to fish and fishing grounds. The king relinquished some royal and chiefly rights at that time, and made a division of the fishing ground, (ibid., p. 361) “one portion to the common people, another portion to the landlords, and a portion he reserved to himself. These are the fishing grounds which His Majesty the King takes and gives to the people: the fishing grounds without the coral reef, viz., the Kilohee grounds, the Luhee grounds, the Malolo grounds,* together with the ocean beyond.”

Continuing this excerpt from the laws (p. 361):‒

But the fishing grounds from the coral reef to the sea beach are for the landlords and for the tenants of their several lands, but not for others. But if that species of fish which the landlord selects as his own personal portion should go on to the grounds which are given to the common people, then that species of fish, and that only, is tabooed; if the squid, then the squid only; or if some other species of fish, that only and not the squid. And thus it shall be in all places all over the islands; if the squid, that only; and if in some other place it be another fish, then that only and not the squid.

Rules and regulations follow, attempting to protect each class from abusing another. The tax officers for the king were armed with power of placing tabus “at the proper

* The meaning of these terms is: kiloheʻe grounds‒the area shallow enough for wading, or examining the bottom from a canoe, perhaps with the aid of the oiliness of pounded kukui nut to smooth the surface of the water; the lūheʻe grounds‒the area where the water was too deep for the bottom to be in sight and the heʻe (octopus) had to be caught by line and cowrie shell lure; the mālolo grounds were certain rough and choppy areas, crossed by currents, where the mālolo (flying-fish) habitually ran. These were deep places, but were not considered the open ocean. (Pukui, inf.)

season” upon certain fishing grounds “which are known to the people to have shoals of fish remaining upon them.” A list of such fishing grounds is enumerated for Oahu and Molokai. For the other islands, special fish were subject to tabus, if the amount were over one canoe load.

In Lanai, the bonito and the parrot-fish. On Maui, the kulekū* (akule-kū) of Honuaʻula and other places. On Hawaii, the albicore. On Kauai, the mullet of Huleia, Anehola, Kahili, and Hanalei, and the squid and fresh-water fish of Mana, the permanent shoal fish of Niihau, and all the transient shoal fish from Hawaii to Niihau …

The law ends with this statement (ibid., p. 362):―

But no restrictions whatever shall by any means be laid on the sea without the reef (evidently meaning outside the areas already mentioned) even to the deepest ocean, though those particular fish which the general tax officer prohibits, and those of the landlords which swim into those seas, are taboo … fine is specified above.

Because chiefs had absolute power, they could relax their own tabus when they wished. Kaʻahumanu (favourite queen of Kamehameha I) was devoted to the people. Of her, Kamakau (48, Chap. 19) says:―

“In certain years she allowed the people to fish in the tapu water of Oahu and forbade the landlords to prevent them from taking fish usually restricted for the chiefs, such as the uhu, opule, heʻe and kahala. For a time there were no tapu fishing grounds for Oahu.”

Modification of the laws continued as time went on. The transient shoal fish were defined: akule, ʻanaeholo, alalauwā, uhu-kaʻi, kaweleā, kawakawa, kala-kū. The fish which each landlord set aside for himself had to be proclaimed so that it was clear to the people which fish was tabu, and the director of the government press was required to publish a list of these fish and the localities in which they were tabu. Finally, in 1845, this privilege of having exclusive right to one kind of fish was exchangeable for the right of tabuing all fish over a landlordʻs fishing ground for a certain length of time. The “royal” fish were defined―certain fish in certain localities noted for their abundance. “These shall be divided equally between the king and the

*The adjective suffix is added to any fish name to indicate a stand, or pause of the school in its journey. Literally, means to stand.

fisherman.” (13, p. 364). An interesting point covered was, “On all the prohibited fishing grounds the landlords shall be entitled to one species of fish and those who have walled fish ponds shall be allowed to scoop up small fish to replenish their ponds.”

In 1850, it was recognized that “Fish belonging to the government are productive of little revenue,” and the laws caused considerable trouble, therefore all the government fishing grounds and fish tabu to the government (the King) were turned over to the people. In 1859, the laws were codified, and still the principle of conservation was adhered to, “for the protection of … fishing grounds and minister of the interior may taboo the taking of fish thereon at certain seasons of the year” (13, p. 367-368).

In 1927, Jordan and others (42, p. 650) wrote:―

The fauna of the reefs is much less abundant than in the period of the first extensive explorations, those of Dr. Oliver P. Jenkins, in 1889, and of Jordan and Evermann in 1901. Probably no species had been exterminated by overfishing, but many once common have now become rare.

Many factors influenced the problem of getting an abundance of fish food for Hawaiians in haole (literally foreigners―post discovery) times, the let-down of the strict discipline of the tabu system, with which the replacing haole forms of laws and government control did not coincide perfectly, the bringing in of other racial elements, as the Chinese and Japanese, who had strong commercial instincts, even to holding the price by limiting the supply in the markets, a scheme completely foreign to Hawaiian concepts, and the changed condition that took many Hawaiians away from shores and into a more urban way of living.

It is evident that the principle of conservation was a strong factor in Hawaiian sea-food economy. Some of the elements of the old pattern carried over far into European times, but the pattern had to receive constant modification in the hybrid culture. It has not yet been made to fit perfectly.

Certain foods were tabued to women, among them some fish. Cobb was informed (13, p. 360) that these were the kūmū, moano, ulua and hāhālua. Pogue (73, p. 37) states:―

It was not proper for the women to eat these: pig, bananas, ulua fish, kumu fish, niuhi shark, whale, nuao fish, hahalua fish,

sting ray, the haelepo, and other things too numerous to be counted by man. A woman was killed if caught eating these things.

Malo (63, p. 52) lists: ulua, kūmū, niūhi, nāiʻa, whale, nūao, hāhālua, hihimanu, and hailepo. During a womanʻs pregnancy, other fish were tabu also―aku, ʻopelu, mullet, or any other white-fleshed fish, or any fish salted by others. It was forbidden to her to salt fish herself, for if any mishap occurred and the fish turned out to be improperly salted so that it did not keep, such inefficiency resulted in a calamity to the child. It would be apt to have a periodical catarrhal condition of the nose that was most unpleasant. It was also forbidden for pregnant women to string fish.

It was not forbidden to women, evidently, to touch tabued fish. Kamakau says (47, Chap. 4): “The women separate the tapu food for the menʻs house from those for the womenʻs eating house.” For men and women to eat together at any time was forbidden.

When seasonal tabus were lifted, women had to wait longer than men. Malo (63, p. 196) describes the elaborate rules that governed the observance of the makahiki festival which Handy (33, p. 296) calls the first fruits and harvest festival. At the close of the period of days which covered the ritual, the tapus were gradually lifted. On one day fish was caught, and the “male chiefs and the men ate of the fresh fish … but not the women.” Several days later, “the queen and all of the women ate of the fresh fish from the ocean. This observance was called Kala-hua.” Even the female gods had to wait until men were satisfied. As Kamakau says (47, Chap. 4, p. 62):―

(In kala fishing) the head fisherman acted as the kahuna who prayed to the aumakua for their blessing. When the prayer had freed the kapu the fishermen from one end of the land to the other ate; and when they had eaten then they gave fish to the womenʻs house for the female aumakua.

Vancouver (85, Vol. III, 18-19) makes note of the tabu of the aku, “it should cease with the men on the morning of the 4th, and with the women on the day following.”

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