UH book on isle fish proves invaluable
TEN YEARS AGO, on a dive boat near Australia's Great Barrier Reef, I sat on the deck watching the other divers crouch over a big, colorful book called "Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea" (UH Press, 1997)
. When my turn came, I saw to my surprise that the first author of this gorgeous new publication was Hawaii's fish expert, John (Jack) Randall.
The book was in constant use on that weeklong trip, and I wished Randall would write a similar book about Hawaii's fish.
Then two years ago, Randall's companion book, "Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific" (UH Press, 2005), appeared. Since I was preparing to sail across the South Pacific, these two volumes became the royalty of my boat's library.
Because 75 percent of Hawaii's native fish are also found in other places, many of them were featured in those books. But there were gaps.
"Do we have this species at home?" a crew member would ask. I didn't know. What's the Hawaiian name for this fish? Um. Does our species get this big? Uh. Again I wished I had an all-inclusive volume about Hawaii's fish.
My wish has come true. UH Sea Grant College Program recently published "Reef and Shore Fishes of the Hawaiian Islands," by Jack Randall (John E. on the book's cover). Like its companion books above, this volume is big, beautiful and full of the facts snorkelers, divers, researchers and biologists want to know.
Jack writes in his acknowledgments that in 1993, Gordon Grau, then Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology director at Coconut Island, asked him to write a comprehensive book on Hawaii's fish. Dr. Grau knew well the need for a modern, complete Hawaii fish book because earlier he taught ichthyology (the study of fish) at UH. He taught it to me. Gordon was my first professor at UH, and he and his fish course changed my life.
Unfortunately, the money Gordon planned for Jack's Hawaii fish book fell through, and the project went on hold. But when Gordon became director of the UH Sea Grant College program, these marine scientists renewed their efforts to create this much-needed book and made it happen.
The book costs $140. I know. Ouch. But high cost is the main reason this book took so long to get here. Books like these take years to write and are pricey to publish and sell in a small market. Since education is key to conservation, it might help to consider the expense an investment in our fishes' future.
The first fish I looked up in my new book were sea horses, because after I wrote about an Atlantic species, people asked me questions about Hawaii species. I didn't know the answers and couldn't find them. Jack's book filled me in.
Hawaii hosts three native sea horses: Fisher's (3 inches tall and found in Kaneohe Bay), thorny (5.3 inches and found once in 1928 off Maui) and smooth (6.7 inches and widespread). Hawaii's smooth (also called yellow) sea horse population had increased recently around Oahu. All three species vary in color.
You can order "Reef and Shore Fishes of the Hawaiian Islands" at www.soest.hawaii.edu/seagrant/communication/RSFHI, or call Cindy Knapman at 956-7410 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To me this is the king of Randall's royal family of fish books. It holds a special place in my library.