This is the best place in the world to study the biology of tropical marine organisms, we are in fact surrounded by a reef. A short boat ride transports you to the 28 acre island, where a wide range of science takes place each day.
We stopped by the bottom fish project. Bottom fish like opakapaka, onaga and ehu are popular food fish, among the most popular food fish in Hawaii, for that reason they are heavily fished, there is some concern they may be over fished.
The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology is partnering with the state to study how bottomfish live in hopes of restoring populations in the wild.
The work begins here in these pens, filled with opakapaka and ehu. Each day Aaron Moriwake checks the pens for eggs. He says, "It's been a good year so far, like last month we had several spawns, and this month also, we've had a bunch of spawns."
A big achievement, considering these fish normally live several hundred feet below the surface, in cooler water. This underwater camera allows the staff to study fish behavior. Today we caught them snacking on opelu.
We didn't find any eggs, but they would normally end up here, at the hatchery. These are newly hatched opakapaka; so tiny, about a millimeter in size, about the size of an eyelash. The baby opakapaka or larvae are fed plankton from the nearby bay.
Well, it's almost lunch time, it's time to get some food for our newly hatched opakapaka.
Bo Alexander collects the plankton by running this net across the surface. So there it is, planktonic soup.
Virginia Moriwake then sorts the catch, through two fine mesh strainers until she get's what she's looking for; tiny plankton that look like this. So far, the staff has successfully raised the opakapaka to 41 days old, conquering the challenges of spawning, hatching, and finding food.
Moriwake says, "We're dramatically advanced now, at 41 days fish can begin to eat larger food that is easier to grow for us so we feel like we're on the cusp of getting where we want to be."