This remarkable fish was captured in May 1997 whilst fishing for sharks just outside the entrance of Honolulu harbour, on the south coast of Oahu (Hawaiian Islands). The fish is commonly called a 'black seabass' or 'Hapu'u' (Hawaiian name meaning 'the rough skinned one'), and is known by the taxonomic name Epinephelus lanceolatus. It is actually a member of the grouper family (the Epinephelinae). The fish had taken one of our large tuna head baits (normally attractive only to sharks) and was firmly hooked. This was surprising as our longline fishing gear is highly selective and rarely catches anything other than sharks. In fact this is only the second large teleost (regular 'non-shark' type fish) that we have captured on this particular fishing gear in 4 years of intensive fishing (approximately 48,000 hook hours of soak.). It probably only fell foul of our gear because of its immense size. Unfortunately we were unable to revive this fish after discovering it on our lines, which is a great pity as a fish of this size is certainly very old and we would all have been happier to see it released. As this was not possible we brought the fish back to land for scientific study. We can learn a great deal about this species simply by determining the age and reproductive status of a specimen of this size. As part of our examination we needed to obtain an accurate weight for this fish. As our laboratory scales were several hundred times too small for this task we took it to be weighed at a commercial fish auction in Honolulu. The sight of this fish almost started a riot amongst the auctions Chinese fish merchants who wanted to buy it from us (it was not for sale!). This was perhaps to be expected as this species is considered a highly esteemed delicacy by local residents of Hawaii. Even the Hapu'us scales are used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines. A Hapu'u weighing 50lbs is normally considered large - this fish tipped the scales at 402lbs (approximately 184kg). You should have seen the one that got away!


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