Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

Hawaiian Uses

Gymnothorax spp. -- Moray eels - Puhi wav.gif (916 bytes)

Interesting Stuff: The puhi was highly prized by the ali`i (chiefs) in Hawai`i. The ali`i in Ko`olau, Maui, were especially fond of the puhi. The puhi were so valuable to the ali`i that only special guests of the ali`i were served the puhi as a meal.

There were several methods that Hawaiians used to capture the puhi:

  • The head of the puhi was captured with a scoop net. After it was caught, the puhi was immediately taken to shore and killed.

  • The puhi were also captured using basket traps. When the traps were emptied, the head and tail of each puhi was smashed and the puhi was killed.

  • Hawaiians also used spear fishing as a method of capturing the puhi.

  • A fishing hook and line were also used for the capture.

  • A final method, called "eel pinching" was a way of capturing baby eels. A fisherman would dangle a squid in front of the rocks to lure the baby puhi out from its hiding place. As the baby puhi approached the fisherman’s hand, the fisherman would quickly clench his fist and capture the puhi. Two to four baby puhi could be caught at one time.

The puhi käpä (Echidna nebulosa) is known as a "fierce eel" because of its bite. It has the ability to squirm its way over wet rocks but has difficulty on dry sand. It is also said to wiggle its way onto shore and will rest in the grasses. If the puhi käpä is disturbed, it’ll flee back into the water. The puhi käpä is also said to wiggle its way up into the hala trees (Pandanus odoratissimus) and has been known to fall on people as they walk by.

Another eel, named puhi kina`u (scientific name unknown) had medicinal uses and was eaten by Hawaiians.

The puhi lei hala (Echidna polyzona), meaning "hala lei eel", has a yellow and brown color that is similar to the hala lei which is made from the fruit of the hala tree.

Finally, the puhi paka was an eel that was feared by Hawaiians because of its ferocious behavior.


Last update: 1/25/2005