The Waikiki Aquariums is adding a new and unique exhibit showcasing the rich underwater realm of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. All the coral, fish and other marine life were collected from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument with rare government approval for collection. Included in this display will be some of the incredible fish specimens we’ve discussed here before — including masked or Personatus angelfish, Centropyge interrupta aka the Japanese pygmy angelfish, yellow barbell goatfish, an undescribed butterflyfish species and table corals part of new coral species discovered in the area all collected just for this exhibit.
Opening on July 2, the 4,000 gallon, $300,000 exhibit may be the only way to see many of these species in captivity. Over 7,000 different marine creatures make the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument home and what’s even more fascinating is a quarter of those are found nowhere else on earth. Besides the aquarium, interactive touch screens will provide additional information on the significance of the islands, their ecology and biodiversity, and the importance of preserving the almost untouched marine ecosystem.
“It’s a unique experience to see these animals alive in conditions that closely represent their surroundings,” said Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium.
This exhibit will help the monument and its government partners satisfy their mission to bring educational opportunities to people who are unable to experience the northwestern islands directly. Only 30 to 60 people each year — and mostly scientists — get the rare opportunity to visit the monument with plenty of risk involved. The monument is more than 1,000 miles from the main Hawaiian islands, and access is severely restricted.
“You are self-contained, out of reach of medevac,” said Richard Pyle, an ichthyologist at the Bishop Museum who has completed five scientific expeditions to the monument. “You are several days away from air landing strips, and you are at least a week away from having another boat come back. The ship is the medical facility.”
Found only in Hawaii, the aquarium is now home to the largest number of masked angelfish on display.
“They are the museum’s new mascot,” said Pyle, who brought back nine. “It’s unprecedented to have so many in one aquarium.”
As we’ve documented before on the collection of rare fish, collectors go to great lengths to find these fish and they can be purchased for up to $20,ooo. The tragic death of collector Rob Lower last year was after a dive to collect the masked angelfish.
The rare fish craze and in the case of rare Hawaiian specimens is all the rage in Japan with places like B-Box Aquarium and Blue Harbor always showing a steady stream of rare fish including a tiny masked angelfish specimen.
It is incredible to see a display like this bringing the public closer to experiencing a part of the reefs nearly impossible to ever see in person. While we are interested in seeing the rare species from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, we are wondering with the work the aquarium and Pyle have done, if we will happen to see some deepwater exhibits in the future featuring Leptoseris coral along with uber-rare species like Bodianus sanguineus or the Sunrise Hogfish in the near future.
[via Honolulu Star Advertiser]