Hawaiian Giant Herring, Elops hawaiensis Regan 1909

Other Names: Banana Fish, Banana-fish, Chiro, Giant Herring, Hawaiian Ladyfish, Ladyfish, Pincushion-fish, Tenpounder, Torres Strait Herring

Hawaiian Giant Herring, Elops hawaiensis, at Yardie Creek, North West Cape, Western Australia, June 2020. Source: Alex Hoschke / iNaturalist.org. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


The Hawaiian Giant Herring is a long slender silvery fish with a single dorsal fin on the middle of the back, a forked tail, a large eye and a moderately large mouth. This schooling species lives in coastal bays, harbours and estuaries, occasionally entering freshwater.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022, Elops hawaiensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3294

Hawaiian Giant Herring, Elops hawaiensis Regan 1909

More Info


Spencer Gulf, South Australia, westwards and around the tropical north to Port Phillip, Victoria. The species is an infrequent visitor to southern Australia. Elsewhere the Hawaiian Giant Herring occurs in the tropical, subtropical, east-Indo-west-central Pacific: Andaman Sea east to Hawaii and the Tuamotu Archipelago, north to southern Japan, south to Australia and New Caledonia.

Inhabits coastal waters over sandy and silty substrates, including estuaries, lagoons, bays and harbours, especially around mangroves, in depths to about 40 m. Individuals move southwards with the warmer currents during summer months. Juveniles often enter the lower freshwater reaches of rivers and streams. 

This active swimmer commonly travels in schools in open water.


Dorsal fin 17; Pectoral fin 15-16; Pelvic fin 12-13; Anal fin 14-17; Lateral line approx 100; Vertebrae 66-70; Brachiostegal rays 20-25.

Body elongate, fusiform, moderately compressed; eye large; mouth large, terminal, jaws approximately equal, upper jaw extending well beyond eye;  a gular plate present between arms of lower jaw; jaw teeth very small and granular. Scales very small, approximately 100 in lateral line. All fins without spines; caudal fin large and forked; pectoral fins low on side of body, near ventral outline; ventral fins abdominal, below origin of dorsal fin.


To 120cm TL but commonly to 50cm.


Blue or greenish grey dorsally, silvery ventrally; fins sometimes with a faint yellow tinge.


Feeds on small fishes and crustaceans.


Little is known of the biology of the Hawaiian Giant Herring.

Sexes are separate and spawning occurs in the ocean. Both eggs and larvae are pelagic. The transparent leptocephalus larvae are long and leaf-like, with forked tails. The larvae drift into shallow coastal waters and estuaries where they develop to maturity and it is during this period when young fish may venture into coastal streams. The larval development and metamorphosis from leptocephalus larva to juvenile was described by Sato and Yasuda (1980).


Although not commercially fished in Australian waters, the speceis is marketed fresh, frozen, or sold as fish meal in other parts of its range.

Hawaiian Giant Herring are taken by recreational fishers using trolled or cast lines baited with live shrimp or baitfish, or with a variety of lures. Although this is a popular sports fish, known for its fast strikes and leaps out of the water, it very bony and is considered to be a poor eating fish.


IUCN: Data deficient

Similar Species

The Hawaiian Giant Herring is very similar to the Australian Giant Herring, Elops machnata, and differs in having more vertebrae (66-70 vs 60-66). Although some authors have used the structure of the upper jaw teeth to distinguish the two species, this character changes with growth. The Australian Giant Herring has only been recorded from Albany, WA.


Elops is from the Greek ellops, meaning a kind of serpent, in reference to the long, slender body.

Species Citation

Elops hawaiensis Regan 1909, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (8)3(7): 35 Type locality: Hawaiian Islands.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Hawaiian Giant Herring, Elops hawaiensis Regan 1909


Abrantes, K. & Sheaves, M. 2010. Importance of freshwater flow in terrestrial–aquatic energetic connectivity in intermittently connected estuaries of tropical Australia. Marine Biology 157: 2071-2086.

Adams, A., Guindon, K., Horodysky, A., MacDonald, T., McBride, R., Shenker, J. & Ward, R. 2012. Elops hawaiensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T194307A2311072. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T194307A2311072.en. Downloaded on 22 June 2020.

Adams, A.J., Horodysky, A.Z.,   McBride, R.S., Guindon, K., Shenker, J., MacDonald, T.C., Harwell, H.D., Ward, R. & Carpenter, K. 2013. Global conservation status and research needs for tarpons (Megalopidae), ladyfishes (Elopidae) and bonefishes (Albulidae). Fish and Fisheries 15(2): 280-311 https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12017

Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls. 

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. 

Blaber, S.J.M., Brewer, D.T. & Salini, J.P. 1992. A checklist of the fishes of Groote Eylandt, north-western Gulf of Carpentaria. Report 218. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Laboratories 14 pp. (misidentified as Elops machnata)

Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Elopidae: Giant Herrings, Ten Pounders. pp. 154-155 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Doupe, R.G., Morgan, D.L. & Gilu, H.S. 2005. Prospects for a restorative fishery enhancement of Lake Kununurra: a high-level tropical impoundment on the Ord River, Western Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology 11: 136-146.

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Family Elopidae. pp. 193-194 fig. 171 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. 

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp. 

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp. 

Hutchins, J.B. 2003. Checklist of marine fishes of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. pp. 453-478 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., & Jones, D.S. (eds). Proceedings of the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Dampier, Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum. 

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762 

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3) 

Larson, H.K. & Williams, R.S. 1997. Darwin Harbour fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. pp. 339-380 in Hanley, H.R., Caswell, G., Megirian, D. & Larson, H.K. (eds). The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbour, Northern Territory, Australia. Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293 

Moore, G.I., Morrison, S.M., Hutchins, B.J., Allen, G.R. & Sampey, A. 2014. Kimberley marine biota. Historical data: fishes. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 84: 161-206 

Morgan, D.L., Allen, M.G., Beatty, S.G., Ebner, B.C. & Keleher, J.J. 2014. A field guide to the freshwater fishes of Western Australia's Pilbara Province. Perth ; Murdoch University, Murdoch W.A.: i-iv + 1-65 + 4 unnumbered pp.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Regan, C.T. 1909. A revision of the fishes of the genus Elops. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 8 3(7): 37-40 (described as both Elops hawaienisis and Elops australis) See ref at BHL

Sato, M. & Yasuda, F. 1980. Metamorphosis of the Leptocephali of the Tenpounder, Elops hawaiensis, from Ishigaki Island, Japan. Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 26(4): 315-324 https://doi.org/10.11369/jji1950.26.315

Smith, D.G. 1999. Families Elopidae, Megalopidae. pp. 1619-1622 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068. 

Whitehead, P.J.P. 1962. The species of Elops (Pisces : Elopidae). Annals and Magazine of Natural History 13 5(54): 321-329 figs 1-3 

Whitley, G.P. 1940. Illustrations of some Australian fishes. The Australian Zoologist 9(4): 397-428 figs 1-45 pls 30-31

Whitley, G.P. 1948. The giant herring. Australian Museum Magazine 9(7): 252

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37053001

Conservation:IUCN Data Deficient

Depth:1-40 m

Fishing:Commercial & gamefish

Habitat:Marine, estuarine, freshawater

Max Size:120 cm SL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map