Page 36 - Hawaii Seafood Buyers Guide

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I. Biological Description
Onaga (Etelis coruscans) is one of Hawaii’s fish
better known by its Japanese name than by its
Hawaiian name, ula‘ula. It is also called ruby
snapper or longtail snapper. This bottomfish is
caught in deep waters (100-180 fathoms), espe-
cially around outcroppings along rocky bottoms.
Most of the onaga caught off the Hawaiian Islands
range in size from 1 to 18 pounds. Onaga caught
in the South Pacific are often larger.
II. Of Special Interest For Buying/Distributing
Availability And Seasonality:
Onaga is Hawaii’s second most important bottomfish in terms of total
landed weight and value. Although onaga is harvested mainly during the fall and winter months
(October-March), its availability peaks during the month of December when demand (and prices) for
red-colored snappers among Hawaii’s Japanese population is at its peak.
Commercial landing of onaga have increased markedly during the 1980’s, due to escalating prices
and fishing pressure. Until recently, onaga were caught mostly at depths between 100 and 120
fathoms. Commercial fishermen are now fishing at greater depths (150 fathoms) to exploit previously
underutilized stocks.
Although onaga is harvested off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as well as off the main Hawaiian
islands, the shorter shelf life of this species compared to opakapaka limits the range of onaga fishing
for the fresh market.
Fishing Methods:
Onaga is harvested exclusively with vertical hook-and-line gear.
Onaga caught off the main Hawaiian Islands is sold at the fish auctions, through inter-
mediary buyers on the major islands, and directly to retail fish markets and restaurants. The North-
western Hawaiian Islands’ catch is sold primarily through the Honolulu fish auction.
Substitutions are possible among the deep water snapper species available in Hawaii.
Although a more valuable fish (in terms of price per pound) for local consumption, onaga has not yet
gained the reputation of the opakapaka in the up-scale restaurant trade. Some up-scale restaurants
are substituting onaga for opakapaka or are serving both species. Other small bottomfish
(opakapaka, gindai, etc.) can be substituted for small onaga in the household retail market.
III. Of Special Interest For Preparation/Quality Control
Shelf Life And Quality Control:
Onaga does not keep as long as opakapaka, but if well handled, it
has a shelf life of about 10 days (see Table 3). Onaga caught off the main Hawaiian Islands are
Onaga (Ruby Snapper)