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The Great Barracuda is a type of ray-finned fish that inhabits the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf Coast of Florida. It also swims off the coasts of Mexico, northern South America, and Hawaii.
Barracudas, of which the Great Barracuda is a type, all look similar but can be distinguished by size: some are less than two feet long and weigh less than 10 pounds; others—like the Great Barracuda—grow up to five feet in length and 100 pounds.
The Great Barracuda and Early Native Hawaiians.
Early Hawaiian fishermen, "lawai’a", would use their understanding of ocean currents, wind direction and star patterns to locate schools of fish. They also looked to creatures of the sea for guidance. The Great Barracuda was one of them.
Called “kaku” or “‘opelu mama,” it eats smaller fish, like the 'opelu, (mackerel scad). Hawaiian fishermen favored netting this species of fish as well. The fishermen would tap the canoe hull to attract the fish, while casting out squash as bait.
Additionally, tapping the canoe was how they called in “’opelu mama” to help locate and coral the large, scattered schools of Mackerel Scad. By calling in the kaku, the ‘opelu would defensively ball up into a bait ball, making it easier for the fishermen to net them.
Grateful for the Great Barracuda
The fishermen would stress to future generations the importance of not removing the “opelu mama”.
The harmony between the lawai'a and the 'opelu mama shows how early native Hawaiians understood the importance of sustainability and resource management.
They knew that without the Great Barracuda, there would be no ‘opelu.
- Original story from “Ka Mo’olelo Moana”