Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Island Opihi Co.
If SB6 is passed into law, sales of Hawaiian opihi will be banned in the state come January 1, 2010. Unless you're willing to brave crashing waves along rocky coastlines to gather your own opihi for the New Year, what's an opihi lover to do?
As luck would have it, Hawaiians have started importing opihi from Ireland. Okay, they're actually called limpets over on the Emerald Isle, but they are close enough to pass the taste test of Noelani Josselin, former part owner of A Pacific Cafe on Kauai, who imports Irish opihi through her Island Opihi Co. The Irish cousin (Patella vulgata) is closest in resemblance to the Yellowfoot opihi. Apparently, the Irish used to eat what they called "barnacs" in times of famine, but not any more, so the Irish opihi are plentiful.
There are four types of edible Hawaiian opihi:
Blackfoot (cellana exarata) found in the upper wash of the waves, Yellowfoot (cellana sanwicensis) found in the wash of waves and most preferred for eating, Koele (cellana talcosa) also known as known as "kneecap", and a variety found on Kauai and Niihau (cellana melanostoma.)
The ban does not include the selling of opihi shells of more than one and one quarter inch in diameter. The ban may be lifted if the Department of Land and Natural Resources adopts rules regulating opihi taking prior to January 1, 2010.