Hawai'i Coral Reef Network

Hawaiian Uses

Chlorurus perspicillatus - Spectacled parrotfish - Uhu wav.gif (916 bytes)

Food Preparation: The uhu was a delicacy for Hawaiians. It could be dried, fried, baked, or eaten raw. The liver of the uhu was especially favored.

Stages: The spawn of the uhu are called `öhua. The intermediate stage is called ponuhunuhu or pänuhu and the adult is the uhu.

Proverbs and Sayings: "Momomi wale ku`u `ono i ka uhu mä`alo i ku`u maka" means, "My craving makes my mouth water for the parrotfish passing before my eyes". This refers to many colors of the uhu which is similar to one’s sweetheart. The uhu was considered a fish that was social and signified a bachelor or someone who was handsome.

Hawaiians believed that the behavior of the uhu reflected what was happening in a fisherman’s household. If the uhu was very energetic and swam about vigorously, this meant that there was too much unnecessary activity going on in the household and that the fisherman’s wife was not behaving in a reserved manner while her husband was away. If the uhu was seen rubbing its nose against another uhu, the fisherman would immediately return to his home to punish his wife for being flirtatious with other men.

"`Öhua palemo" was a saying that spoke of the slippery `öhua, the spawn of the uhu. This spoke of someone who was clever in getting away with mischief.

Interesting Stuff: The uhu was caught in a method called käkä uhu. The uhu usually swims along by itself or with another partner. A dummy uhu would be made out of wood and placed on a net. When the live uhu approached the dummy, the net would be raised and the fish would be captured.

Legends: The uhu is a key character in the legend of Puniakaia and Uhumaka`ika`i. The story goes something like this… One day, Puniakaia had the urge to go fishing with his mother. Throughout the entire day, they only caught one fish called pauhuuhu. This was a young uhu. Instead of eating the young fish, Puniakaia raised it until it became very large and it was named Uhumaka`ika`i. When it was time, Puniakaia released the large uhu and it is said that Uhumaka`ika`i became the parent of all the fishes in the sea.

Whenever Puniakaia was in need of fish, he’d call upon his pet fish and Uhumaka`ika`i would flood the sea with enough fish to satisfy the entire village. Any fish that remained would be set aside for the pigs and dogs to eat.

There is another legend about Uhumaka`ika`i. Kawelo and another fellow fisherman named Makuakeke set off to go fishing one day off Wai`anae, O`ahu. Kawelo was insistent that he would capture a large uhu that day. He waited all night long, but the large uhu did not appear. The following morning, Makuakeke noticed dark clouds forming in the sky and he knew that Uhumaka`ika`i was near. As the large uhu came near, Kawelo threw his net into the sea and captured the large fish but Uhumaka`ika`i put up a strong fight. The two fishermen were dragged away from the island of O`ahu till it was out of sight. Soon, they reached the island of Kaua`i and Uhumaka`ika`i turned around and dragged them all the way back to Waikïkï, O`ahu. There, Kawelo and Makuakeke were finally able to apprehend the massive fish and Uhumaka`ika`i was killed.


Last update: 1/25/2005