For years divers and ichthyologists have been seeking the Hawaiian endemic, Orange Margin Butterflyfish known as Prognathodes basabei. This fish was first seen and collected in May of 1998 when Pyle collected three specimens on two different dives in Hawaii. Since then the illusive fish has been difficult to spot, despite frequent 400ft+ dives in […]
For years divers and ichthyologists have been seeking the Hawaiian endemic, Orange Margin Butterflyfish known as Prognathodes basabei. This fish was first seen and collected in May of 1998 when Pyle collected three specimens on two different dives in Hawaii. Since then the illusive fish has been difficult to spot, despite frequent 400ft+ dives in search of them. Shown below is one of the three specimens collected in ’98 that is graciously on display at the Waikiki Aquarium.
P. basabei at Waikiki Aquarium – Photo by John Coppolino
Last week Rufus Kimura and Jessie Wilson took a dive down to 450ft and found what they had been looking for all these years. Nevermind the Holanthias fuscipinnis, Holacanthus arcuatus, Liopropoma aurora, or even the 100lb Tunas and massive Tiger sharks that they saw on this dive. Rufus and Jessie found a small group of Prognathodes basabei, the first in nearly 10 years. Despite their depth and excitement they managed to catch 3 specimens at 440ft… all on a dive not intended for these butterflies.
Diving to such depths is extremely dangerous and only doable with a Closed Circuit Rebreather. (See Richard Pyle’s TED talk on the twilight zone) This particular dive went smoothly, up until the end. Their planned 5 hour decompression time was nearly interrupted by a fisherman. A fisherman who started pulling up their dive buoys trying to get them out the water. “He thought we were tourists,” Kimora said, “Actually I have no idea what he was thinking!”. Despite the interruption Rufus, Jessie, and the three Butterflies decompressed safely over the 5hr+ time and reached the surface unrushed–despite the fisherman’s antics.
P. basabei at Blue Harbor – Photo by Koji Wada
Once on land, word quickly spread and plenty of shops in Japan were interested. Koji Wada of Blue Harbor beat all interested parties and snatched up the trio. Stores in the U.S. had their shot at getting these fish, but with a retail price of over $6,000USD it’s no surprise Japan Koji took the prize.
Prognathodes galore at the Blue Harbor showroom – Photo by Koji Wada
If the price tag and potential decompression issues didn’t turn you off, there is hope of acquiring this fish again. They plan to make another dive in a few weeks to see if they can find more of these deepwater beauties at the same location as their last dive. (Side note: On this same dive a Holanthias fuscipinnis was also collected. That particular specimen collected happens to be the first to make its way to the continental US… more on this beauty to come).
A special thanks to Rufus Kimura, Koji Wada, and John Coppolino for their photos and stories.