‘Awela (Hinalea) – Christmas Wrasse

Biology Connections – Ike Noeau:

‘Awela, meaning ‘hot’ in Hawaiian, is a type of hinalea or wrasse. There are 43 species of hinalea in Hawaii, making it the most diverse fish family, and ‘awela are one of the most colorful. They are named for their distinctive pink and green color pattern and rapid zooming movements about the reef. ‘Awela are abundant on the reef and rocky bottoms where they feed on crustaceans (especially crabs), molluscs, and brittlestars. Like many wrasses, ‘awela are all born as females and then develop into males later in life. For this reason, they are called sequential hermaphrodites. Males are typically bigger and brighter than females. As the males take longer to develop and are important for breeding, it is best not to fish for the biggest and brightest ‘awelas on the reef. 

Cultural Connections – Mo’olelo:

Story of the Hawaiian fishing god, Ku’ula, his wife Hina, and their son Ai’ai:

Ku’ula, who lived in Hana, Oahu with his family, had a human body but was possessed by mana kupua, supernatural powers, that allowed him to have great control over fish. Because of his abilities, the region’s ali’i (chief) appointed Ku’ula the head fisherman of the region, and the people of the area were blessed with many fish and no hunger. A man from Molokai’i, angry at Ku’ula’s son for killing a puhi (eel), lied and told the ali’i rumours of Ku’ula’s deceit. The ali’i, believing these rumours to be true, ordered the people to burn Ku’ula and his family in his house. Ku’ula discovered these plans and accepted the fate, although he made sure to give his powerful sandstone rock, the Hina stone that gave him his mana and fishing abilities, to his son, Ai’ai. When the community burned the house with the family inside, Ai’ai managed to escape to a nearby cave with the Hina stone. Meanwhile, Ku’ula and Hina transformed into spirit form and entered the sea, leading the fish, seaweed, and other marine life away from the people of Hana. After this, the people of Hana became hungry and suffered from a lack of fish and seaweed. Eventually, Ai’ia used the Hina stone and his knowledge to call upon his parents in the sea and help the people catch fish, specifically hinalea or wrasse fish. (wrasse). He began leading community members to the water, where he would effortlessly fill their baskets with hinalea. Today, the Hina stone is still thought to control six types of fish, including the hinalea and manini (Ku’ula story).