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WOW!!! I've uploaded my photos and a comment (to my blog) which I hope will help keep you guys in business. Your cruise was probably one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
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Pacific Environment


Kona is known for it's sunny, dry climate, hence its nickname "The Gold Coast". Generally speaking, the Kona Coast does not have the four typical seasons. The difference is only about 15 degrees (F). The winter with snow on the high volcanoes is the coolest time to year with 72 degrees by mid morning. In the summer we have 80 degrees by mid morning. The year-round average is a high in the 90's and a low of about 70 degrees. It's like having late spring or early fall all year around. By mid afternoon, we can see a cloud cover on our high volcano peaks to the east which keeps our average temperature very comfortable.

 As the winter season grows, the months of January through April, the Humpback Whales return to the Kona Coast. Strong currents can make any beach unsafe at any time during the year, particularly in the winter.  Winter water temperatures are 75 to 78 degrees.  In the summer water temperatures range 78-81 degrees. The months between May and October ushers in the return of the Trade Winds. Kona’s coast is not heavily affected by these winds because of our volcanoes which lay to the northeast and east of us. The winds are diverted and blocked, creating a wind shadow along the Kona Coast coastline

Coastal Waters

One of Hawai`i's most spectacular natural treasures is the wide variety of marine fishes that occur in the nearshore waters of the state. Over 400 species of inshore and reef fishes inhabit Hawai`i's coastal waters.


Reef Fish of  Hawaii

 There is remarkable diversity among these fishes. For example, over fifty species of brightly colored wrasses are found among the reefs, along with nearly thirty species of angelfishes and butterflyfishes. Large predators such as jacks and sharks also inhabit the reef area. Each one of the 400-plus species has its own unique role in the nearshore environment.

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The coastal waters of the islands feature a number of different habitats, each with its own characteristic marine life. Some fish are at home in sandy bottom areas, others in boulder-strewn waters off rocky shorelines. Tidepools provide "nursery" areas for young fish of many species.

AngelFishes Family

Boxfishes Family

Members of this family have rigid box-like bodies composed of hard scales that are fused together.  Holes in this shell are present for sensory structures, digestive tract, gills, and fins.  The skin of some species produces a toxic mucus under stress.  The toxin is so powerful that it kills anything in a confined space for some time including itself, so it is unwise to capture or keep these fishes without the proper facilities.  Swimming is done by undulating the dorsal, anal, and pectoral fins while the caudal fin is reserved for a quick escape. The family as a whole are referred to as Trunkfishes.  Cowfishes have a pair of spines above the eyes; boxfishes don't.  Young are born as females but only a few will become males during adulthood.  They graze upon encrusting organisms including sponges, tunicates, hydroids, and algae.


Butterflyfish Family

If there was a typical coral reef fish, it would probably be a butterflyfish.  Brightly colored (often in yellow) disklike bodies that travel in pairs.  There are 25 species of Butterflyfishes in Hawaii, 123 throughout the world, of which five are endemic (two are only found at great depths).  The Hawaiians referred to most species as Lauhau or Kikakapu and did not eat them except during periods of famine.   The most common species is the endemic Milletseed Butterflyfish, at least around the older islands.  It occurs in large aggregations that feed upon a variety of tiny invertebrates, fish eggs and zooplankton.  It also spawns in large groups rather than forming a monogamous bond. 

Paired individuals remain together and maintain well-defined territories.  The size of the territory is determined by the amount of food needed and the amount of effort required to defend it.  Live corals are preyed upon by several species.

Bigeyes Family

Bigeyes may be distinguished from Soldierfishes by their tiny scales and unforked caudal fin.  The dorsal fin is also continuous.  Bigeyes are also much slower in habit and tend to stare at divers and stay put.  They are nocturnal animals that feed upon zooplankton.


Jacks are compressed silvery fishes with a pair of dorsal and anal fins, stiff, forked tails and narrow caudal peduncles often protected by a hard ridge of scales known as scutes.  In most species the first anal fin composed of three short spines is embedded in the skin just behind the anus.  

These fishes are carnivores that may form schools or aggregations in a wide range of habitats including estuaries, bays, reefs, and the open sea.  Some species will hunt opportunistically by trailing other carnivores as they forage including eels, sharks, and marine mammals.

Most species are valuable food and sport fishes but large trevallies have been depleted in most areas due to overfishing.  Large Carangids feed heavily upon reef fishes and are the most-likely carriers of ciguatoxin, which causes serious illness in mammals if eaten.

Many species have long-lived larvae and occur around the world in warm and temperate waters.

Moorish Idols

The Moorish Idol is related to the Surgeonfishes and Tangs with tough skin, tiny scales, and brushlike teeth for grazing upon sponge and hydroids.  In Hawaii they are found singly or in small groups.


Parrotfishes are well-known for their size and bright colors.  In Hawaii they are especially popular on the dinner table and are a prime target of spear and net fishermen.  They are difficult to approach here, but divers who have been to Midway know them to be indifferent to humans.

There are three distinct groups in Hawaii, two of which are the what might be called the typical Scarids, having fused beaks with a smooth surface.  They either have a gently tapering or blunt, angular head.   These feed upon minute algae cells living within reef rock (coralline algae) and Porites coral.  They grind this material into sand with bony plates in their throat, digest the algal cells, and expel fine powdery sand as the end product, contributing to the sediment.  The genus Calotomus has a beak with a rough cobblestone surface used to graze leafy seaweeds.


Members of both families lack scales and pelvic fins.  They inflate themselves with water to become more difficult for predators to swallow or wedge themselves into the reef.  The caudal fin is reserved for short dashes while the other fins provide primary locomotion.  Puffers have short velcro-like spines and a pair of fused teeth in each jaw.  Porcupinefishes have stout spines or burrs and each jaw consists of a single cutting edge.  They are carnivorous and eat anything available but shellfish are preferred.


Hawaii has only four true snappers at normal diving depths, two of which were introduced from French Polynesia in the 1950's.  An additional seven deepwater snappers are illustrated here in addition to a snapper-like relative of the Boga family. The Bigeye Emperor is a deep-bodied snapper relative that is frequently seen over coral reefs.  Snappers are excellent food fishes and important to local fisheries.   Deepwater snapper stocks have been threatened by overfishing and competition with the now-abundant Bluestripe Snapper.

Surgeonfishes- Tangs




Coral and Live Rock of Hawaii

The coral reef is the best known and most impressive of Hawai`i's nearshore habitats. A healthy reef provides fish with abundant food resources and protection from predators. It is for this reason that reefs attract a great deal of marine life. The individual coral animals which create much of the reef are sensitive to changes in water quality, as are the microorganisms which form the base of the food chain. A reef habitat that becomes degraded as a result of pollution or siltation will lose its ability to support a diversity of marine life. Protecting reef and other nearshore ecosystems is necessary and challenging.

Stony CoralsStony Coral
Stony corals are those which help to build coral reefs. The animals which form stony corals belong to the same major group as jellyfish and anemones. Most of them are coIonial, and all secrete a hard skeleton made of calcium carbonate. The animals themselves, called polyps, form the outer living layer of a coral colony. Each polyp sits in a cup-like depression called a calyx (pl. calices).

The characteristic color of many living corals is due to the presence of single-celled algae, called zooxanthellae,which live inside the coral polyp. The coral and algae have a mutualistic symbiotic relationship in which each benefits from the other. Most stony corals produce colonial forms that are attached to the substrate, but a few are solitary and unattached.

Coral reefs are an important resource for Hawaii. Corals and coral reefs provide food and habitat for many fish and invertebrates. Most stony corals grow very slowly, so damaged reefs may take hundreds of years to recover. Please help us to protect our coral resources. Taking or damaging coral, live rocks and coral rubble

State law prohibits the breaking or damaging, with any implement, any stony coral from the waters of Hawaii, including any reef or mushroom coral. HAR 13-95-70

It is unlawful to take, break or damage, any implement, any rock or coral to which marine life of any type is visibly attached. HAR 13-95-71

The taking of sand, coral rubble or other marine deposits is permitted in certain circumstances. The material may not exceed one gallon per person per day, and may be taken only for personal, noncommercial purposes. HRS 171-58.5, HRS 205A-44

Sale of corals
The sale of all species of stony corals which are native to the Hawaiian Islands is prohibited. HAR 13-95-70

Some examples of native Hawaiian corals are shown below. This list does not include all native species.

Rose Coral or Cauliflower Coral
Pocillopora meandrinaRose or Cauliflower Coral

The most common Pocillopora in Hawaii, this coral prefers wave-agitated environments, and is found at depths down to about 150 feet. Commonly called "rose coral" or "cauliflower coral," the colonies form cauliflower shaped heads about 10 to 20 inches in diameter. Branches are heavy and leaf-like, and fork bluntly near the ends. All branches have wart-like projections called verrucae that are covered with calices. Color of living colonies ranges from brown to pink.

Lace Coral
Pocillopora damicornis

Lace Coral

This delicate and fragile coral forms small bushy clumps up to about 6 inches in diameter. Colonies consist of fine branches covered with calices. These branches range from long and slender in calm waters to more robust forms in areas of wave action. Sometimes the skeleton will create pocket formations around a crab that lives among the branches. Usually found in protected areas and inner portions of large reef flats, this species appears to strongly depend on sunlight, as it is rarely found below about 30 feet. Colonies range in color from light brown in shallow waters to dark brown in deeper waters.


Antler Coral
Pocillopora eydouxiAntler Coral

Colonies consist of thick pipe-like branches that resemble moose antlers. This species also possesses verrucae and is usually found in depths of 35 to 150 feet. Live colonies are brown in color and usually darker than other Pocilloporid corals 



Lobe Coral

Porites lobata

This coral producLobe Corales many encrusting or massive forms on the reef from the intertidal zone to depths of over 180 feet. Long narrow cracks found on the coral heads are produced by a type of alpheid shrimp. Calices have a snowflake-like appearance and are shallow and flush to the surface. Living colonies range in color from yellowish-green to brown and sometimes blue. 




Finger Coral
Porites compressaFinger Coral

Distinguishing features are the finger-like branching and shallow snowflake-shaped calices. This species is most common in wave protected areas like bays or deeper reef slopes to depths of about 150 feet. It has many growth forms, but all of them show some sort of fingerlike branching. Color of live colonies ranges from light brown to light yellowish-green.

Rice Coral 
Montipora capitata

The most obvious characteristic of this coral is the nipplelike projections (papillae) that cover the surface. These papillae are smooth with no caliceRice Corals on them. Calices are found on the upper surface of the coral between the papillae. The image of the calices and papillae create a "rice & pepper" appearance. This species is found at depths up to about 150 feet. It has a number of growth forms ranging from platelike to branchlike and encrusting types. Color of living colonies is usually brown. If the colony is growing in a plate form, the edges may be white.



Mushroom Coral or Razor Coral
Fungia scutariaMushroom or Razor Coral

This solitary (single polyp), free-living (unattached) coral is most commonly found on reef flats, frequently between cracks and crevices. It has also been found at depths of over 75 feet. Its disk-like, elliptical shape resembles a mushroom cap and ranges from 1 1/2 to 7 inches in diameter. Some adults may form a high arch in the middle. Immature forms are attached to the substrate or an adult mushroom coral by a stalk. It grows into a disk and, when large enough, breaks off the stalk and becomes free-living. The color of live specimens ranges from pale brown in bright sunlight to dark brown in shady areas or deeper water.

Orange or Cup Coral
Tubastraea coccinea

This is a commoOrange or Cup Coraln non-reef building coral found in shallow Hawaiian waters. This species forms large calices and occurs in clumps that are 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Living tissue is usually bright orange in color, but may also appear pink or even black. The bright coloration is not produced by zooxanthellae. This coral is usually found on steep ledges, in caves and in shady tidepools.