I. Biological Description
Hapu‘upu‘u (Epinephelus quernus), commonly
called grouper or sea bass, is only known to
occur in the Hawaiian Islands and at seamounts
just northwest of Hawaii. Members of the grouper
fish family are able to change skin colors to blend
into their natural habitat, and the hapu‘upu‘u is no
exception. Most hapu‘upu‘u seen in the market
are black, but fish captured in certain locations
may be brownish or reddish.
Hapu‘upu‘u is a deep water bottomfish usually caught at between 50 and 150 fathoms. In general,
larger fish are caught at greater depths.
II. Of Special Interest For Buying/Distributing
Availability And Seasonality:
The largest landings of hapu‘upu‘u usually occur in the fall and winter
(October-December) and in the spring (February-April). The majority of the hapu‘upu‘u catch in
recent years has come from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Most of the hapu‘upu‘u caught off the main Hawaiian Islands are from 5 to 10 pounds in size,
whereas the waters around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands yields fish mostly in the 10 to 30
pound size range.
Hapu‘upu‘u is frequently caught incidentally in the hook-and-line fishery for deep
water snappers. However, knowledgeable fishermen are capable of targeting this species, which is
an aggressive feeder that readily takes baited hooks.
Hapu‘upu‘u caught off the main Hawaiian Islands are sold through the fish auctions,
through intermediary buyers on the major islands, and directly to restaurants. Most of the Northwest-
ern Hawaiian Islands’ catch is sold through the Honolulu fish auction.
Hapu‘upu‘u is often substituted for more expensive fishes, such as the kumu or goat-
fish, in Chinese restaurants which feature steamed fish. Although hapu‘upu‘u is primarily sold to
ethnic retail and restaurant markets, its popularity as a “catch of the day” (interchangeable with other
white-fleshed bottomfish) in non-ethnic restaurants is increasing.
III. Of Special Interest For Preparation/Quality Control
Shelf Life And Quality Control:
Hapu‘upu‘u keeps well (2 weeks) when properly brined and iced after
capture (see Table 3). The only quality problem which may arise is the occasional presence of sac-
like parasites in hapu‘upu‘u flesh. The sac may be cut out of the flesh and is harmless if eaten.