Surgeonfish are herbivores that live in tropical waters around coral reefs. Their name is derived from the scalpel-like spines on their tails that are dangerously sharp. They range from the Indian to Pacific Ocean. Three species are common in Hawai’i: the convict surgeonfish or manini in Hawaiian (Acanthurus triostegus), the eyestripe surgeonfish or pualu in Hawaiian (Acanthurus dussumieri) and ringtail surgeonfish or palani in Hawaiian (Acanthurus blochii).
Convict surgeonfish (manini) is greyish yellow on the upper third of its body fading to white. Its name comes from the six vertical black stripes on its head and body. Eyestripe surgeonfish (pualu) have a pale brown body with an orange band between the eyes. Ringtail surgeonfish (palani) is bluish grey in color with a yellow spot behind the eye and a white bar at the base of the caudal fin.
Manini travel in large schools and feed on filamentous algae. They can be seen grazing on algae covered rocks in the daytime and hiding in small caves at night. During spawning, eagle rays often eat their eggs that are broadcasted in the water column. Palani and pualu are also schooling species and can be found on deep coastal reef slopes and outer reef walls feeding on algae film covering sand.
Hook and Line Reef Fishing
This fishery uses a variety of artisanal methods to catch reef fish, including handlines, and pole and lines. Catch rates are low, usually only a few pounds per hour with little bycatch (discards). These small-scale fishing methods are similar to those traditionally used by native Hawaiians.