Heʻe - A Native Hawaiian’s Experience Growing Up With The Day Octopus

Photo credit  Silver Spiral Seas

In the 1960s, the day octopus, called heʻe in Hawaiian, was common and plentiful where we lived and fished along the North Kona coast of Hawaiʻi island. My kūpuna (elders) would recognize the heʻe den by the broken crab and snail shells found outside the entrance.  Growing up in a fishing family, we were taught to take care of the land (ʻāina) , the ocean (moana) and to respect Kanaloa “ke akua o ka heʻe – god of the octopus.” Our first catch would be returned to the ocean in honor of Kanaloa.

Hawaiian Day Octopus photo credit  Silver Spiral Seas

Hawaiian Day Octopus photo credit Silver Spiral Seas

Because the heʻe is a delicacy for Hawaiian families, we followed an unwritten social code called Pono Practice:  

To take only what you need for immediate personal and family use and use what one takes carefully and fully without wasting.  A good Hawaiian fisher is not the one with the largest catch but the one who can get what he or she needs without disturbing the natural processes.
— Kelson “Mac” Poepoe

Cindi Punihaole is the Project Director for Kahalu`u Bay Education Center
and serves as a cultural advisor on the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island.