We developed our products based upon observations of numerous tanks here and with the kind support and assistance of a large number of individual customers and academic researchers.  In this section, we share the stories behind the various tanks in the Micro-Lobster exhibit at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.  You're invited to visit!
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Summer 2006 Report & Editorial

                In 2003 Fuku-Bonsai introduced the Micro-Lobster website and has since been a clearinghouse to disseminate information by participating and/or cooperating scientific community as well as reporting the observations and findings of our customers and associates who make up our Micro-Lobster Team.  When we first began, there was extensive information by "conservationists" or "environmentalists' claiming that opae'ula, the Hawaiian Red Anchialine Pond Shrimp (halocaridina rubra), was rapidly becoming an endangered species.  It was fashionable to aggressively and arrogantly spread such fabrications.  

                That strategy is falling apart as individuals and organizations are being shown to be phonies.  Too many teachers, non-profit organizations,  and even regulators have been guilty of much misinformation and they should be ashamed of themselves!  When asked to provide documentation of their claims, they mumble something and hang up. While a few of their blatant self-congratulatory web pages are still in existence,  many have been quietly taken off the Internet.

                It is extremely counterproductive that the Vector Control section of the Hawaii State Department of Health introduced mosquito fish into the anchialine ponds and justify it as part of a defense against the possible spread of West Nile Virus. It is frustrating that bureaucratic regulatory agencies and gutless academia refuse to provide leadership to clear the use of rotenone as a needed tool to begin removing introduced predators in the anchialine ponds.

                Information about anchialine ponds in general is considered sensitive by Big Island land owners and developers.  They are concerned with the economics and challenges of development and recognize that they must not cause controversy regarding the environmentally and culturally sensitive ponds on their properties.  Or, they simply don't want people trespassing on their property. Most of the owners and developers are very responsible people and not wanting to get into a public crossfire is prudent.  I hope they will continue to exercise their stewardship responsibilities and secure the anchialine ponds from further deterioration. I hope our research and conservation efforts will address their concerns and lead to a long-term win-win policy and solution for everyone.

                 Fortunately, there are a number of researchers,  environmentalists, and members of the general public who are quietly contributing to the body of information available. We are proud to be associated with responsible and conscientious individuals and agencies and a part of a growing amount of research. Because of the academic competition for research funds, some are being conducted in a secretive manner and some agencies decline to share their information with us.  We have contributed photos for use in grant applications, connected individuals who have information or common interests, and have agreed to keep projects confidential until published and/or provided permission to publicize.  There are a number of bright spots! 


                I salute and congratulate researcher Scott Santos, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Cell and Molecular Biosciences at Auburn University in Alabama. Scott was born in Hawaii and received his BS in zoology at UH-Manoa and his PhD in Biological Sciences in New York.  He is focusing on population genetics, resource conservation, genomic evolution and symbiosis biology.  Of particular interest to us is his DNA research on opae'ula. 

                On June 10, 2006,  Scott announced the release of his long awaited paper:  "PATTERNS OF GENETIC CONNECTIVITY AMONG ANCHIALINE HABITATS: A CASE STUDY OF THE ENDEMIC HAWAIIAN SHRIMP HALOCARIDINA RUBRA ON THE ISLAND OF HAWAII" by the journal Molecular Ecology.  The study is a landmark report that provides much of the basis for developing the strategies to assure preservation and conservation of opae'ula!

                Scott Santos collecting opae'ula on the island of Oahu. For his study, Scott collected and obtained opae'ula from 16 different anchialine environments in Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii.  There are no known opae'ula in Kauai and Oahu is the oldest geological island in which opae'ula has been found. There the anchialine environments are part of prehistoric reefs that developed when sea level was much higher. As sea level receded, the coral reefs covering much of Oahu became exposed and, as portions dissolved into "solution holes,"  opae'ula colonized the porous hypogeal environment.    (Photo courtesy of the Santos Lab, Auburn University)

                Scott's introduction is precise in stating that the Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated land mass in the world and is a natural showcase for evolutionary processes, unique endemicity, and habitat diversity. Hawaii has the largest concentration of anchialine ponds in the world and the endemic opae'ula are the dominant creature in anchialine environments.  

                The study is especially instructive because of unique opae'ula traits including:  1) unusual longevity, 2) extreme salinity range tolerance, 3) larvae that can stay in planktonic form for 24 to 37 days, 4) distribution throughout Hawaiian islands that are separated by deep distant ocean channels, and 5) ability to travel through the underground water table.  Recognizing that there are significant differences of size, color, and the physical dimensions of the various body parts,  Scott and his associates used molecular DNA methods to explore the question:  "Is the Hawaiian halocaridina rubra a single specie?"  

                Between December 2004 and June 2005,  specimens were collected from anchialine environments on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii, preserved and prepared for DNA analysis with the following major conclusions: 

        1.    Seven (7) distinct lineages:  3 on Oahu, 2 on Maui, and 2 on the Big Island. Each lineage occurred only on one side of one island and none occurred on two islands.  Colonization is deemed to be a rare occurrence.

        2.    A high amount of variability even between a single lineage.  While there is a progressive small variation in comparing nearby ponds, there is a significant variation when comparing the specimens from the two extreme ends of the lineage range.   

        3.    Limited migration or gene flow suggest isolation over significant time-spans and the possibility of speciation. 

                So while the study provided significant light, it also raised many other questions! 


                The Santos study confirmed what many of us had concluded based upon observation that all opae'ula are not the same!  The opae'ula of each island is different in size, coloration, and behavior. If all opae'ula are the same, a valid and logical preservation - conservation strategy is simple as it would be necessary to set aside one habitat and to maintain one breeding colony in a laboratory setting. But with seven lineages, the strategy will be more complex. Based upon a guestimate of the total population of each lineage, priority for preservation - conservation is rated with most endangered first as follows:

        1.    The three Oahu lineages. These are the greatest at risk and immediate regulatory actions are justified.  Fortunately, these are the most studied with responsible and respected resource leaders available.  

        2.    The two Maui lineages. Ahihi-Kinau already has State natural preserve status.   Wainapanapa is currently a State recreational park but has alien predator fish that should be removed on a priority basis once rotenone is cleared. DLNR is already addressing some issues but may need to expand their efforts.   

        3.    The East Hawaii (Big Island) lineage.  Scott raised the issue of volcanic eruptions having a possible evolutionary effect and the East Hawaii lineage is the only region bisected by an active volcanic rift zone.  It may be significant that water temperature at the Pohoiki Pond has been measured at 95F.  A portion is already protected at Volcanoes National Park.  It is proposed that an East Hawaii task force be created to collect breeding colonies from every possible pond throughout the region to be maintained at Fuku-Bonsai (and by other task force members).  Volunteers willing and able to participate in the East Hawaii task force are requested to contact David Fukumoto at Fuku-Bonsai.

        4.    The West Hawaii (Big Island) lineage.  There is the least amount of concern for this lineage as it is the largest region with large extensive ponds.  Although it is claimed that 95% of all anchialine ponds now contain alien predators, there is growing evidence that even in these ponds, opae'ula are surviving in the watertable and come out at night when fish predators are sleeping.  In addition, there are numerous pristine ponds and the total population of this lineage is probably one hundred times or more the combined population of all other lineages. Manuka already has natural preserve status and other portions are already protected at Kaloko-Honokahau National Park, Waikoloa Anchialine Pond Preservation Area and a number of private conservation projects. 


        1.    A ban on commercial collection from public lands and a strict bag limit by DLNR permit for collection by hobbyists.  There could be additional administrative rules to reflect the situation on each island. Public policy should place public lands as the leader of preservation and conservation activities.

        2.    Requiring all commercial collectors to include written permission of the private landowners to be included with their monthly opae'ula DLNR harvest reports. This recommendations will have several significant results. 

        a.    Private landowners will have stronger resources to prosecute and discourage trespassing.  In addition to prosecuting for trespassing, the offender can be charged with collecting opae'ula without a license, (or if it was by a licensed collector) to be charged with collecting opae'ula without permission.

        b.    Private landowners are encouraged to establish agreements with one licensed collector to be held responsible for prudent sustainable collection on an exclusive basis. Currently, private landowners hesitate to make such agreements for fear of violating their SMA development permits.

        c.    Private landowners will still have the option to establish no trespassing and no opae'ula collection policies.

        d.    Foundations and organizations will still have the options of conducting conservation programs and allow limited supervised collection from their ponds.  


                In all discussion to date,  there has been no mention of the two most significant tools to assure future availability of opae'ula, namely "sustainable collection" and "mass culture captive breeding systems."  The two proposed recommendations will help create the climate to make private land owner permission possible to responsibly collect the needed quantities of broodstock to make mass culture systems possible.

                I believe these recommendations are a reasonable and prudent starting point to establish the necessary regulatory oversight to assure preservation and conservation of opae'ula for future generations. I invite written comment by everyone and will post both pro and con position papers on this website in the future.  Please contact me at  

                                                                Respectfully submitted,
                                                        ~~~  David W. Fukumoto
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