Biology Connections – Ike Noeau:
Manini are the most abundant of all of Hawaii’s Surgeonfishes and they often congregate in large schools. They are found in shallow reefs, brackish water, tide pools, and open ocean where they usually feed on algae. The distinctive vertical lines on the side of convict tangs may help break up the outline of manini to confuse predators. As herbivores, manini play a crucial role in controlling the amount of limu (seaweed) on the reef to stop it smothering coral. Manini can be found all around the Indo-Pacific region.
Cultural Connections – Mo’olelo:
Although Manini are bony and tough-skinned, they have been eaten by Hawaiian communities for a long time. There are many ancient references of chiefs and commoners eating the manini salted and raw, enjoyed without cleaning its entrails (Native Use of Fish in Hawaii, p.105). After summer (kauwela) rain showers, young Manini (keiki) come closer to shore, as evident by this Hawaiian proverb:
Ka iʻa a ke kualau i lawe mai ai.
The fish brought in by the rain at sea.
(Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation Ku’ula Resource Management Project)
Hawaiians historically used a holahola net–or a “poison net”–to catch manini and certain other reef and cave fish. First, the poisonous ‘auhuhu or ʻākia plant was collected and mixed in a bag with sand, to make it heavy enough to sink. Then, once at a suitable cove, reef, or cave, a fishing net was thrown in the water to block the escape. Finally, a fisherman would cut holes in the bag of poison, dive deep in the water, and shake the bag to release the poison into the water. This poison stupefied the fish, and in 10 to 15 minutes many would float to the surface, where they would be collected by the fishermen. Any fish not collected quickly recovered from the poison (Fornander Vol. 6) (United States Fish Commission, 1903).