2011 MICRO-LOBSTER UPDATE
|BAD NEWS - GOOD NEWS
Since the previous updated report, there's sad news to report. Many more ponds have become invaded by predators including all of the 10+ acres of the greatest concentration of ponds at the Waikoloa Anchialine Pond Preservation Area that was set aside prior to the development of the Kona-Kohala Visitor Destination area. The preservation area was cut into two sections by a road that had been built through the ponds to give access to a resort residential area.
The makai (ocean side) ponds had been invaded several years ago and it is believed that a bird carrying a mouth-brooding tilapia dropped a flapping fish into the ponds. In record high tides, the fish spread throughout the lower section with the exception of the man-made pond which was thought to be protected by the wide constructed walkway. The mauka (mountain side) ponds were pristine, protected by the access road.
A July 2011 visit to the Preservation area showed that all ponds now have an abundance of tilapia AND OTHER FISH! The presence of other fish indicates that someone is intentionally introducing these other fish and populations have grown to the extent over such a large area that there is very little possibility of all of the ponds ever being restored. It may be possible to utilize Rotenone in selected small isolated ponds and to reuse it from time to time as ponds get invaded again. There is a clear history of the opae'ula returning once the predators and excess algae are removed. There are two other areas of bad news:
1. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn approval for the use of the fish-killer Rotenone to be used to restore the anchialine ponds. Many years ago it was very effectively used to remove the predators. Then improper use resulted in a fish kill and Rotenone was banned. Through the efforts of many individuals and agencies, Rotenone was allowed to be used and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture conducted classes so certified applicators could use Rotenone. Individuals became certified and some ponds were restored. However, EPA has since re-interpreted their position and Rotenone is again banned from use pending completion of another study. Regulatory experts predict Rotenone will be allowed to be used again in the future.
2. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the tsunami crossed the Pacific with major damage to parts of the Kohala area. The popular Kona Village Resort suffered the most damage and is still closed. The once pristine restored ponds at the Four Seasons Resort at Hualalai suffered damage but has been restored and is now open. But the tsunami somehow introduced predator fish into the beautiful showcase anchialine ponds and until Rotenone is again approved, the predators cannot be removed and the ponds completely restored.
THE GOOD NEWS!
1. There have been increasing episodial evidence that although the ponds are invaded by predators, some opae'ula in some situations are holding their own. This is due to fish becoming inactive at night. Opae'ula are emerging from the cracks in the lava water table and coming out to feed on the algae at night. While there numbers are greatly reduced, they will survive.
2. There's been reports from Maui that in the legendary cave and pond at Wainapanapa, that mosquito fish had been introduced into the front of the pond and no opae'ula are visible during the day. The cave-pond is part of a formation where the roof of the lava tube dips down and it is not possible to see the opening that leads to the dark back flooded section. Researchers donned swim goggles and with lights have gone into the back dark chamber and report that the walls are red with surviving opae'ula! These truly are amazing creatures!
3. Based upon the growing body of evidence, it is very unlikely that opae'ula will ever become endangered or extinct. Besides stories of their survival under unbelievable conditions, the threat against their extinction was eliminated when researchers and Fuku-Bonsai documented the ability of our Micro-Lobsters to successfully reproduce in our breeder tanks. The large number of reports from customers throughout the United States and some foreign countries are part of the evidence. Based upon this, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has completely removed the Hawaiian Red Anchialine Pond Shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) aka The Amazing Hawaiian Micro-Lobsters™ from the candidate list of threatened or endangered species.
ANOTHER PAIR OF AMAZING STORIES!
1. In July, I had an opportunity to study another set of anchialine ponds within a restricted area and found the ponds to be pristine and predator free. But there was one very shallow pond that was loaded with opae'ula with the depth of the water just one inch deep! We happened to go there at high tide and was told that at low tide, there was no water at all! Apparently the opae'ula somehow retreat back into the cracks into the water table! It is likely that no predator can follow them so no water --- no predators! It is very likely that at least this particular pond will support opae'ula forever!
2. In that same anchialine pond area, there were other deeper ponds. I noticed that there were two general types of vegetation. One was a thin reed-like plant very similar to the reeds the Japanese use to create their tatami mats that grew around the ponds. The other was a a thinner very branchy aquatic grass that never grows out of the water. When I visited Four Seasons at Hualalai several years ago, their natural resource manager told me that this grass serves as a nursery for the youngest opae'ula. I wanted to see if I could grow it in my tanks and so scooped up a small handful that I carried around for an hour or so as we explored the ponds and hiked back to our vehicles. Upon reaching the van, I placed the aquatic grass in a bottle with some bottled drinking water.
After a long day in the lava fields and upon reaching home, there was a 5-gallon aquarium partly filled with brackish water as I had been doing some experiments the week before. I emptied out the grass from the bottle into the tank and never gave it a second thought. But three days later I was shocked to see two of the tinniest baby opae'ula less than 1/8th inch and still clear! It likely was in early larval stage hidden in the aquatic grass! I didn't expect them to survive but they did living off the algae on that grass. AMAZING!
FUKU-BONSAI IS PART OF THE FIRST MAJOR PUBLIC ANCHIALINE POND AND OPAE'ULA EXHIBIT AT HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK!
Fuku-Bonsai was honored to participate in the first major public exhibit on the Big Island. For more information go to www.fukubonsai.com/M-L2e1.html