On a recent trip to Molokai we found opihi amongst the rocks of the remote beaches we explored. I was gladly surprised to see an abundance of opihi and thought what a rarity it was to be in the presence of this over harvested limpet.
On Oahu, you can’t really find opihi anymore on the beach or even in a store to buy. Opihi picking has become a rare and dangerous task since the only living opihi are found off remote cliffs. The Nature Conservancy is currently supporting efforts and working with Hawaiian cultural practitioners, scientists, local communities, resource managers, and government agencies to help restore and protect the Hawaiian opihi populations. These groups will collect data, educate, and help manage the opihi.
When researching this article I came across an interesting company online called Opihi 4 Sale. This business was started by a man named Patrick Murphy from Kauai who visited Ireland and discovered yellow foot opihi there. In 2004 he left Kauai with his sons and started Emerald Island Opihi Company and began selling fresh frozen North Atlantic Opihi to the world ever since. I was surprised to think that opihi is found in Ireland clear across the world from us, but glad to hear there is an alternative for those looking to satisfy their opihi craving without causing our populations to go extinct.
There are three difference species of opihi that live Hawaii.
Opihi Makaiauli: (Cellana exarata) want to be splashed, and don’t mind being dry between tides. The low ribs of their shells are dark and their troughs light. They grow to about two inches across.
Opihi Alinalina: (Cellana sandwichensis) crave constant splash or surge and can’t tolerate drying out for long periods. Their shells grow to about 2 and a half inches across and have a scalloped edge that was used by Hawaiians for shredding coconut meat.
Opihi Koele: (Cellana talcosa) are sometimes submerged and can live in depths of up to 10 feet. Koele are the largest of Hawaiian opihi, growing up to four inches across. Their shells are smooth and thick with a low profile.
ken inn says
my father used to go out to the mokulua islands in front of our house in lanikai, and bring back opihi. I went with him a couple of times out to the windward side of the one hump, which we called it then. there was a deep channel, and a small rock formation on the windward side, and he would swim the channel, and disappear from sight. he would return, I forget how long, with a bag of opihi, probably about a gallon. then we would swim back, and he would shuck them from the shell, eat some, and freeze the rest. we had quite a bit in our freezer. I remember when one of my local friends, steve leder came home from serving in Vietnam, he wanted opihi. I dug out a small bag from the freezer, and he was running it under the faucet to defrost the opihi, and would eat them as they defrosted and kinda separated. I thought he was nuts. dad swam out there barefooted, much later on he used fins. he had a couple sets of goggles made from hau wood, and a Hawaiian sling. it was about a mile out to the mokulua islands, and he was out there almost every week for years. farther down lanikai beach, near bellows, my mom would gather limu kohu. for several years, the oama would gather along the shoreline, and there would be lots of people fishing for them. I remember a couple of Hawaiian families would almost wipe them out with nets, which were illegal, but we were too scared to tell. yup. all gone now. we used to get poi from the roadside stand in waiahole. that’s long gone, too. I remember when I got back from Vietnam, I had to to to times in Kailua early in the morning, and they would have poi, but only about 15 bags. if you no get there early and stand in da line, you no get poi that day. that’s gone, too. our last visit was in 2003. andy’s drive in was now a checkers auto parts. we used to get a burger, fries, and a coke for 48 cents. craig’s bakery was gone. whoa. best haupia cake ever. who can forget the long john’s with custard filling. kuulei okazuya, 25 cent plate lunch. back then, the black sushi used to have real gobo and ebi in it.
Taryn E. Fowler says
Ken, thanks for sharing your childhood memories! So cool!!