There are approximately 680 known species of fish that live in the Hawaiian Islands; about 420 of those species are designated as reef and inshore fishes. A surprising 24% are endemic to Hawaii (i.e. found nowhere else in the world). Several are especially common and easily recognized by snorkelers and divers while others are rare. These endemic species are especially well-represented at the oldest islands including Pearl & Hermes Reef, Midway Atoll, and Kure Atoll at the northwest end of the island chain.
There are more than 30 different varieties of Hawaii fish, including:
Lizardfish, Moray Eels, Trumpetfish, Cornetfish, Squirrelfish, Soldierfish, Scorpionfish, Sea Bass, Bigeyes, Cardinal fish, Snapper, Emperor fish, Rudderfish, Goatfish, Butterflyfish, Angelfish, Damselfish, Wrass, Surgeonfish, Blennies, Triggerfish, Filefish, Trunkfish, Pufferfish and Porcupine fish.
Many of these fish, ecologists say, are key to maintaining healthy coral reefs because they keep reefs clean by grazing on algae that can quickly overgrow the stony corals and cause them to collapse.
Probably in Hawaii, more than anywhere else in the United States, people rely on fish to feed themselves and their families.
The Official Hawaii State Fish is known as the Reef Triggerfish. The common variation widely seen in the waters of Hawaii are the rectangular, wedge-tail triggerfish known as Picasso triggerfish, or Humuhumunukunukuapua'a in the Hawaiian language, which means "triggerfish with a snout like a pig".For the purpose of religious sacrifices in ancient Hawaii, every land animal has an animal equivalent in the sea, hence the association with a pig. It is one of several species of triggerfish, endemic to the salt water coasts of various central and south Pacific Ocean islands. It is often asserted that the Hawaiian name is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian Language and that "the name is longer than the fish." It is not, as often claimed, the longest fish name in Hawaiian; that distinction belongs to lauwiliwilinukunukuʻoiʻoi ("long-snouted fish shaped like a wiliwili leaf"), also known as the Butterflyfish.
The reef triggerfish's teeth are blue and are set close together inside its relatively chubby mouth, it has a small second spine, which it can use to lock its main spine into an upright position. The triggerfish can wedge itself into small crevices and lock its spine to make it extremely difficult to get out. In addition, when fleeing from predators, the triggerfish will sometimes make grunting noises, possibly a call to warn other nearby triggerfish of danger at hand.
One particularly interesting aspect of the reef triggerfish's behavior is the ability to blow jets of water from its mouth. These jets help the fish find benthic invertebrates that may be buried under the substrate. Triggerfish can often be seen spitting sand from their mouths in order to sift through the material in search of edible detritus or organisms. Reef triggers are fairly aggressive and will generally not tolerate conspecific species in its general vicinity, thus the fish is often found solitary. This is particularly true in captivity. Triggers have the remarkable ability to rapidly alter their coloration. They can fade into a relatively drab appearance when sleeping or demonstrating submission while the coloration is often the most vivid when the fish is healthy and unthreatened by its surroundings.
The reef triggerfish is distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and it is especially prominent in the coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands.
Due to an expiration of a Hawaiian state law, the trigger fish ceased to be the state fish of Hawaii in 1990. On April 17, 2006, bill HB1982 was presented to the Governor of Hawaiʻi which permanently reinstated the reef triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa) as the state fish of Hawaiʻi. The bill passed into law on May 2, 2006 and was effective upon its approval.
Also widely known as the Picasso triggerfish, the reef triggerfish shares its scientific name with its less common relative, the lagoon triggerfish.
Identification: The Picasso Trigger is a magnificent and very popular aquarium species that is easily recognized by its creamy grayish-tan and white colored body splashed with many distinctive bright blue and yellow fine-line, and golden, black and white wide-band type markings.
Distribution: This species extends from Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands westward through central Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanasia, and the Philippines to the coast of China, through the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa and the Red Sea.