Okay, stick with me here, because this fact is fascinating. Before we dive into this fact, it’s probably a good idea to first define the word endemic. In the context of ecology, endemic means, “Native to or confined to a certain region.” So, when we say something is endemic to Hawaii, it means that it’s native to Hawaii and generally (or naturally) not found anywhere else in the world. Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at how unique Hawaii’s fish are.
A couple of years ago, when I conducted a Q&A with the Head Dive Master, Mike Jones, of Trilogy Excursions in Maui, he told me that 25% of Hawaii’s fish live nowhere else but Hawaii. Of course I trusted Mike’s answer, but I wanted to verify this figure with Jerry, who is in my opinion exceptionally knowledgeable on all things to do with the ocean. (In fact, Jerry’s twitter profile simply reads, “Total Ocean Devotion.”) Jerry and his wife Bobbie live on the Big Island of Hawaii. where they write one of my favorite blogs, The Right Blue.
Jerry confirmed that nearly a quarter of Hawaii’s fish are indeed unique to Hawaii. He provided this quote from Shore Fishes of Hawaii by Dr. John Randall, the leading expert on Hawaii fish from the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology: “a surprising 24.3% of inshore fishes of Hawaii are endemic to Hawaii. This is the highest percentage of endemism for warm water marine fishes in the world." Whoa! Let’s add that to our growing mental list of what makes Hawaii special.
For more on Hawaii’s endemic fishes, see these resources:
- The Right Blue: Difference between ‘endemic’ and ‘indigenous’
- The Right Blue: collection of articles on Hawaiian endemic fishes
- Great collection of photos of endemic Hawaiian fishes
About the photo: Hawaiian Lionfish by permission from The Right Blue.