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Tako Tuesday! Discovering Hawaii’s Octopi

Do you like takos? Not the yummy meat stuffed tortillas we all look forward to every Tuesday, but the eight-armed kind who live in the ocean. Tako is the Japanese word for octopus. Since Hawaii is the most ethnically diverse state in the nation, it’s common for residents to adopt words from other languages.

While it’s uncommon to spot an octopus while snorkeling, some snorkelers occasionally get lucky when they know what to look for. In Hawaii, when someone has the gift for spotting octopi, we say they have “tako eye.” Here are a few tips to help develop your tako eye, so next time you go snorkeling in Hawaii’s beautiful waters, you’ll know what to look for. (Disclaimer: The person in these photos is a professional free-diver and tako fisherman. Snorkel tours do not allow guests to touch sea life).

Octopi like to make their homes in areas where the rocks and coral are polished and white. Once found, the leggy sea creature finds a hole and cleans it by digging out the rocks. She will then utilize the rocks to hide the entrance to her new home.

Octopi are masters of disguise, changing their colors to match their surroundings. This adds to the difficulty of catching a glimpse of the recluse sea animals. Because they have no skeletal structure, they can easily fit through the smallest of cracks and crevices. If you’re lucky, and have developed your tako eye, you may catch a glimpse of their black eyes, which are always on the look-out for predators.

Tako like to protect themselves by expelling a black ink. This temporarily turns the water murky and assists them in a quick getaway. The ink is difficult to remove from human skin, so you want to avoid being in the line of fire (unless you want to go home with a temporary tako tattoo).

Hawaii residents are fond of tako poke, and some will dive for octopus in hopes of serving up a delicious meal. There are regulations set forth by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) regarding the hunting of tako. A single creature must be a minimum of one pound to be removed from the ocean. This assists in conservation and helps avoid over-fishing. They do bite, so those on the hunt should be prepared to get nibbled on. Next time you see tako poke on the menu, give it a try and let us know what you think!

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