In a seven-year busman's holiday, Maui biologists Mike Severns and Pauline Fiene identified fishes from more than 50 families at Molokini, a submerged volcanic crater a few miles off the south coast of Maui. Some families, like the wrasses, comprised more than 30 species. This wealth of diversity leads them to label Molokini as the jewel among the state's nine marine preserves. For the purposes of picture books, it is equally important that apart from the mackerel scad, hardly any of the fish there are the silvery-gray color and shape of the generic "fish." Molokini's fish have colorful and individual personalities. The majority of us, who only snorkel Molokini infrequently, miss the true riches there. You have to dive every day, and have an expert eye, to appreciate Molokini. Or have this book. On page 100 is a spectacular picture of a black coral tree with at least 17 Moorish idols swimming around it. The coral is covered with a variety of feathery creatures, and, according to the authors, harbors a "rose-colored frogfish." We'll have to take their word of it, because search as I may, I cannot distinguish it from the scarlet sponges. Hardly any of the 170 or so color pictures in "Molokini Island" duplicate the beautiful, but now cliched, pictures of fish found in so many other coffee table books. By visiting nearly every day, the authors (Mike Severns did the underwater photography) encountered and captured creatures and behaviors seen rarely. (Or never, since over the years they have discovered several new species and proved for the first time that several more known elsewhere exist in Hawaii, too.) In that sense, reading the book is better than going there in person. "Molokini Island" is too short, however. It gives a pretty complete selection of the bony fishes, but coverage is increasingly skimpy as regards other fishes, corals, molluscs, worms and land plants (the sere island is home to dozens of species, although landing is forbidden without a permit). At the tag end of the series, seaweeds and birds are not illustrated at all. Of course, nobody goes to Molokini to see the worms. They go for pretty fish and coral, and, if they are lucky and daring enough to dive the outside wall, whale sharks and whales. Because Severns and Fiene are both graduate biologists (her main field of research is nudibranchs, his is native land snails), the quality of information in the captions is noticeably more knowledgeable than in most other picture books about Hawaii. "Molokini Island" is also a book with an agenda. Severns and Fiene, who support their natural history research by operating a dive business, believe that Molokini needs more protection. The reserve, which now extends only to the 180-foot depth, should be greatly extended, they say, and such activities as trolling should be curtailed. Then the pelagic species (like whales) will return in greater numbers. Given time, the damage from bombing, black coral harvesting and anchors (all now stopped)
ThriftBooks sells millions of used books at the lowest
everyday prices. We personally assess every book's quality and offer rare, out-of-print treasures. We
deliver the joy of reading in 100% recyclable packaging with free standard shipping on US orders over $15.
ThriftBooks.com. Read more. Spend less.