ENDENKAMW MWOKILLOA BLACKJACK TOURNAMENT
FISHERMEN TALK STORY
STORIES FROM KOSRAE
TALES OF FISHING
FISHING WITH FIRE
9 Fisherman Talk Story While in Kosrae during the summer of 2012 JMF staff had the chance to catch up with Hamilson Phillip, a longtime spearfisherman from Malem, Kosrae.
1 Science to support
11 A Lifetime of Fishing
It was just another quiet afternoon in 1989. My father, Juan Dela Cruz Shai was out fishing at his favorite up-and-down spot along the reef—northwest of Tinian and southwest of Goat Island. After just an hour of solitude on the sea, he felt a tug at his line.
What is the current status of your coral-reef fishery? Do fish populations on your reefs resemble their ‘natural’ state? If we continue to fish the same way we do today, will there be enough fish left to feed the next generation(s)?
4 Endenkamw Within the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean lie three specks of coral islands, cordoned off from the rest of the world by their fringing reefs. Being isolated as they are, traditions remain strong. Despite the onslaught of technological advances and media driven communications, here, the mats continue to be woven. Here, the legends of old are still told under the moon, and here, the fish are caught by the skilled hands of local men. This hidden pocket of the world is Mwoakilloa.
www.pacmares.com www.facebook.com/pacmares Email Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org Mail: Pacific Marine Resources Institute (PMRI) P.O. Box 10003 PMB 1156 Saipan, MP 96950, USA (670)233-7333
Editors Brooke Nevitt Greg Moretti
Contributors Peter Houk Eugene Joseph Yvonne Neth Hamilson Phillip Greg Moretti Juan Dela Cruz Shai Catherine Shai Danko Taborosi Sam Sablan This journal was prepared with support from The David & Lucile Packard Foundation. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of PMRI or The David & Lucile Packard Foundation.
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13 Kahlek Traditional techniques for catching flying fish at night using a torch, locally-made canoes, and nets woven with coconut and pandanus fibers is a longstanding tradition for many island societies across Micronesia. Pictured here, fishermen from Pingelap participate in in kahlek fishing for menger.
Science to support decision making: By: Peter Houk, PhD University of Guam Marine Laboratory
Photos by Peter Houk
apex predator biomass low diversity, high dominance
high diversity, low dominance
less non-calcifying substrate
more non-calcifying substrate
Trophic interactions found across coral reefs in the Marshall Islands highlighted in a recent study (available online at http://www.guammarinelab.com/publications/rmi_trophic_interactions.pdf).
hat is the current status of your coral-reef fishery? Do fish populations on your reefs resemble their ‘natural’ state? If we continue to fish the same way we do today, will there be enough fish left to feed the next generation(s)?
Although many of the reefs in Micronesia always seem to have enough fish to meet our daily needs, the fish stocks of today are very different from what elders describe. Even the seemingly abundant fish stocks they remember are likely to be different from what ‘naturally’ exists, in the absence of humans. However, trying to imagine what a reef would look like without any human influence is very difficult because natural reef systems are rare to come by, and even harder to get to. Luckily, there are still reefs that can provide some clues as to what our waters may have once looked like. The remote atoll of Rongelap in the northern Marshall Islands
is one of those places. Since the devastating impacts from radiation fallout during atomic bomb testing in 1954, Rongelap atoll has remained mostly uninhabited for 57 years, until a re-settlement process began a few years ago. Along with the resettlement process, a coral-reef assessment was recently conducted on Rongelap to document the status of their marine resources. The results were profound and depicted a world with abundant sharks, fish, and vibrant coral, helping us to better conceptualize our human footprints. Rongelap’s reef fisheries were characterized by ‘inverted fish biomass pyramids’, a term used to describe
fish assemblages that are dominated by sharks and predators in comparisons to algae-eating fishes. Over time, human exploitation of fisheries serves to flip the biomass pyramids, mainly because predators are long-lived species and can’t replace their populations fast enough in response to fishing pressure. This situation results in reefs that become dominated by faster-growing, algae-and-plankton-eating fishes that can persist despite fishing pressure. In addition to inverted fish biomass pyramids, the study also found that high predator abundances were associated with larger sizes of many fish groups that play critical roles for the ecosystem, such as parrotfishes. Other studies similarly suggested that sharks and larger sizes of grazing fishes are strongly associated with each other, inferring that sharks may preferentially select small prey, or sustainably feed on larger prey. The exact mechanisms remain elusive and are of great interest.
The different colors represent the different types of ﬁsh, all of which play an important role in the coral reef ecosystem. The top image shows how different the reefs of Rongelap are from the six others represented. The second zooms in on six population centers across Micronesia and allows for a closer look at the ﬁsh observed there. Tertiary – sharks, large snappers, and other predator ﬁsh; Secondary – mainly invertebrate eating ﬁsh; Planktivore – ﬁsh that mainly consume plankton from the water column; Herbivores/detritivores – ﬁsh that graze the coral-reef substrate of algae and detritus build-up.
Given that larger herbivores clean (i.e., graze) a disproportionally larger amount of reef, it is not surprising that reefs dominated by sharks and larger herbivores were also dominated by corals and other framework-building algal substrates. An interesting perspective of the importance of predators and grazing fish to our reefs comes from drawing comparisons across trophic guilds (groups of species that exploit similar resources). Our recent work found that the relationship between sharks and larger parrotfish not only reduces fleshy algal substrates, but also provides for more species of corals to persist (see inset figure showing trophic interactions). So what might this mean for Micronesia? Standardized data collected from coral monitoring programs across Micronesia show a decline in fisheries moving from islands with low human-population-density-per-reef-area to high (see summary fish graphics). Fish biomass on Rongelap was between 10 and 30 times greater than the populated islands across Micronesia. A question that comes to mind is what thresholds in fish biomass need to be maintained in order to prevent the cascade of negative change on your reefs? Clearly striving for coral-reef resources similar to Rongelap is not realistic for the populated islands of Micronesia, however, what fish populations are needed for reefs to continue functioning, and how can we maintain those thresholds? If given more information, would you be willing to support change? In Marshallese they say, Ko Bed Ia which translates loosely to “where do you stand?” That is for you to answer. However, together with the Journal of Micronesian Fishing we will be working to provide clear and understandable science to help you make the best decision possible. Stay tuned…
A good catch in Rongelap
during your stay with us
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Most common bycatch of the event (Plectropumus oligacanthus)
By: Eugene Joseph, Conservation Society of Pohnpei Yvonne Neth, Island Research & Education Initiative All photos for this piece are by Eugene Joseph
ithin the vast expanses of the Paciﬁc Ocean lie three specks of coral islands, cordoned off from the rest of the world by their fringing reefs. Being isolated as they are, traditions remain strong. Despite the onslaught of technological advances and media driven communications, here, the mats continue to be woven. Here, the legends of old are still told under the moon, and here, the ﬁsh are caught by the skilled hands of local men.This hidden pocket of the world is Mwoakilloa. Mwoakilloa atoll is an outer island of Pohnpei, in the Federated States of Micronesia. Today, the people of this atoll number approximately 90 men, women and children—and it is here where Endenkamw originated. Endenkamw, is a fishing tournament held each year, during the scorching summer months, a time marked by the fat bellies of the breadfruit sprouting about in the trees. The fish of choice here is the blackjack, a species which, during this time of the year, aggregates outside the lagoon waters of Mwoakilloa atoll. This competition is an exercise in determination
-- the fishermen spending the entire day on the water -- coupled with the excitement of the game itself; after all, it is common knowledge that the Mwoakillese people are people of great competitiveness.
Fishing for the blackjack is carried out by the men, young and old. Any man who catches a blackjack is a victor, though two are distinguished notably from the rest: he who catches the most blackjack and he who catches the biggest.
While the sky remains dark in the early hours of the morning, the men depart the shores in search of bait. At the prearranged time, they assemble on the sands of an adjacent island with the caught bait and divide it equally amongst all participants. Later that afternoon, the men will meet again at this same spot to count their catch. There is no gunshot to signal the start of the race, but a signal more quiet and overwhelming, the deep citrus hues of the rising sun. The chase for blackjack begins now. The men head out in their boats, skirting the fringing reefs, sinking lines to depths as deep as a hundred feet. All day long, dropping and pulling one line after the next, you would assume the advantage of long years of fishing would prove your hand skilled and leaning toward the victor’s circle. Unfortunately, it does not. The Mwoakillese say luck has everything to do with
Women prepare ﬁsh for all to enjoy.
this game, and a hefty amount of it too. Victors are random. Teenagers have triumphed over their elders and vice versa; the elders will sometimes sport a self-righteous smile, sometimes toothless, at the youth, a silent declaration seeming to say, “That’s right, boy. This old man’s still got it.” The women, land-locked, have busied themselves preparing breadfruit. While the rays of the sun beat on their husbands and sons, the women must manipulate the flames of fire. The delicious meat of the breadfruit is concocted into various dishes, glazed or drowning in the milk of the coconut, pummeled to mush and baked upon the glowing red rocks of the umw (earth oven). Their preparations will be the most appetizing compliments to the assorted fish they expect to receive when the men return.The images of steaming breadfruit and fish, raw and garnished with the tangy flavor of lime or grilled on the fire, leaves the mouth to water. When the sun reaches a certain angle in the sky, it signals to the fishermen it is time to return. Again, they gather on the beach of the adjacent island. Each man presents his catch for counting and weighing. All without a single blackjack in their lot are losers -- and for these losers, vines from the beach are gathered and fashioned into scraggly gar-
When the sun reaches a certain angle in the sky, it signals to the fishermen it is time to return. lands placed on their head. The boats are then divided between the winning party and losing. Now, the succession of boatmen makes their way through the channel, toward the main island; the losers leading ahead, seeming to escort the winners. To amplify their shame, the winning party yells “Oh, look at this!” and points at the losing party, declaring their loss. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, a makeshift statue awaits them on the shore, shaped and decorated like a woman, an
imposition the men must soon reckon with. The adornments of this statue, now incorporating foreign imports such as cigarettes and canned goods, are to be fought over by the losers. The wrestling is taken in jest, of course, and provides for a rather entertaining spectacle to watch. The air becomes saturated with the hoots of cheering and playful teasing, the wind vibrates with turbulent waves of thunderous, glorious laughter, and, in this comical act of wrestling over a doll, the men regain themselves anew, taking their failure in stride and giving in to the childish freedom of harmless horseplay. When that is done, the doll cleared of all her adornments, the attention is redirected to the winning party. The chief approaches, silencing the crowd in his wake, and announces the day’s victors. The two victors, he with the most catch and he with the biggest blackjack, have won, not only today’s tournament, but will rein an entire year as the two best fishermen of the island. If another man were to bring an enormous fish or an impressive catch the very next day, the label of “best fisherman” will still be unreachable. Endenkamw has become the definite means to a man’s status in fishing on Mwoakilloa.
A few proud ﬁshers and their catch.
Midi “Measure” your catch - so we can fish tomorrow Are the sizes listed in the poster and ruler a new law? No, this is not a new law or regulation. The sizes listed are recommendations based on the average size at which our fish begin to produce eggs, this size is called L50.
How does only taking, buying or eating fish that are the ‘right size’ help the reef? Harvesting, buying or eating fish below the listed L50 sizes reduces the number of spawning fish in the reef, resulting in less fish for tomorrow. These recommended sizes are not applicable to early juvenile runs (like manahak and I’e), though allowing fish to reach the ‘right size’ will increase the size of these runs.
Where do the size recommendations come from? The L50 sizes are based on the best available life-history information with contributions from regional resource agencies and scientific journals. Regional variations in L50 sizes typically only vary a small amount. Feedback on these sizes from knowledgeable and experienced fishermen is invaluable to our ongoing efforts to keep our fisheries healthy.
Poster of reef fish painted at L50 size
Waterproof ruler lists some of the favorite reef fish of the CNMI and their L50 size
To learn more visit - http://sizematterscnmi.blogspot.com/
6 To sustainably manage and protect Kosrae’s biodiversity and natural heritage through community engagement and partnerships for the benefit of present and future generations. www.kosraeconservation.org
Conservation Society of Pohnpei Preserving Our Natural Heritage for a Sustainable Future The Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) is the premier conservation organization in the FSM, working to increase community involvement in the conservation and management of Pohnpei’s natural resources; build local capacity through public and private partnerships; develop alternatives to unsustainable practices; and promote policies that support these objectives. P.O. Box 2461, Kolonia, FM 96941 | ph: 691.320.5409 fax: 691.320.5063 • email: email@example.com
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TALK STORY Hamilson Phillip A fisherman from Malem, Kosrae Photos by Greg Moretti
Back then, very few people could spearfish. The old spearfishermen didn’t even use a snorkel... they used a local style mask.
hile in Kosrae during the summer of 2012 JMF staff had the chance to catch up with Hamilson Phillip, a longtime spearfisherman from Malem, Kosrae. When did you first learn to spearfish? I started fishing when I was very young. I was twenty eight. I have been fishing for almost 30 years. In the beginning, I couldn’t go very deep or stay down very long. My wife would stand on my back while I practiced to help keep me from floating up. When I started to move, she would know it was time to get off and let me up. It took me several years to learn how to be a good spearfisherman. It isn’t an easy job, but I love it. Why did you start spearfishing? I feed my family seafood. I have five daughters and they all ate fish when they were young. That is why I needed to fish. Even today, now that my kids are older, I still fish. Sometimes, it is hard. The current might get strong…it might take away your fish. Do you always freedive? Yes, I always freedive. What about Scuba spearfishing? No, I never scuba spearfish. It is illegal in Kosrae. But, people used to scuba spearfish. They made the law a few years ago because people were worried that those who were scuba spearfishing could
quickly wipe everything out. Also, here we never used dynamite. It destroys the reef. What is fishing like today compared to when you started? From what I can tell, there used to be many fish. Back then, very few people could spearfish. The old spearfishermen didn’t even use a snorkel. They didn’t even use slippers. They used a local style mask…just glass and rubber. My father was a really good fisherman. He bottomfished. I remember waking up in the morning, when I was young, to my father returning from a fishing trip. He brought lots of fish home. Today, there are so many fishermen. I like spearfishing, but now adays there are so many people fishing. Before, Kosraean people would use the moon to predict what kind of fish would be coming out tonight or tomorrow.They could be sitting at home, look at the moon and know where to go fishing. What was your biggest catch? The biggest fish I ever caught was with my speargun. It was a 68 pound giant trevally in 1999. My spear didn’t have a string on it and I knew that if I didn’t hit the right target, it might take off with my spear. I followed it for a little bit…going zigzag…and caught it. My daughter thought it was so big she asked me, “Daddy! Is that a shark?!” Continued on to page 15
My Dad and the Sea
A Lifetime of Fishing for
Juan Dela Cruz Shai As told by Catherine Shai Photos by Greg Moretti
The sea decides what you bring home. The sea also decides if you come home.
t was just another quiet afternoon in 1989. My father, Juan Dela Cruz Shai was out fishing at his favorite up-and-down spot along the reef— northwest of Tinian and southwest of Goat Island. After just an hour of solitude on the sea, he felt a tug at his line. Thinking that his line was stuck to a rock, he tried to yank the line free. He then felt yet another tug, and he knew it was a big one. It was the big one. Little did he know, at the end of his line, was not a hook stuck to some rock; it was a 200 pound grouper. Using his 12.0 electric reel, my father slowly pulled the giant from the depths (about 700 feet). After thirty minutes, the monster popped up to the surface. A nearby fisherman saw my dad’s catch and came to his aide. Together, they hauled the huge fish onto my dad’s 18’ McKee Craft. To celebrate the catch, it was feasted upon by my dad and his fellow fisherman, as well as their families.
A chiliguagua is a sort of young apprentice to the skilled throw net fisher. I would carry the bucket and collect the fish he brought up. Although I tried my best to be quiet, that was never my forte. Looking back, I see that my dad brought me along to share his favorite pastime with me.
an Dela Cruz Shai
When I was young, I thought my dad was the tallest man on earth. I was wrong. My dad stands at only 5’7”. I also thought my dad was the best fisherman on earth. Well, I’m not going to budge on that one - he remains the best fisherman I know, a real master of the sea. As my father says, “the sea decides what you bring home. The sea also decides if you come home.” My father is a strong believer of this. In the 1950s, he began his affair with the sea. By fifteen, he was an avid recreational spear fisher, heading out regularly with his peers and mentors. He could free dive as deep as 70 feet, where he would catch parrot fish, rabbit fish, and even the occasional lobster. Little did he know, fishing would shape his life and livelihood. By 18, my dad worked at Naval Technical Training Unit on Saipan as a maintenance worker for thirty three cents an hour. However, he quickly realized that he could sell his catch for twenty-five cents a pound. By reeling in at least 20 lbs. of fish each trip, he was able to double and sometimes triple his income. In the 80’s, after moving back to Tinian, my father started trolling and bottom fishing. With “up and down” (bottom fishing) he caught the bait-eaters: onaga, grouper, mafuti (emperor fish), satmoneti (goatfish), and gindai— and when trolling, he would catch the “sashimi-fish”: tuna, wahoo, mahi, and the vied-for blue marlin. My father has caught two 100 pound blue marlins during his fishing career. And it was through his skill and determination that he fished his way out of our little shack and into our new home, one they built from the ground up. In addition to spearfishing, trolling, and bottom fishing, my dad also is a skilled talaya or throw net fisher. When I was growing up, some days he would take me along to be his chiliguagua while he walked with his talaya a few feet away from me. When my father fishes seriously, he fishes alone, unless, of course, he goes out spearfishing. Between 1991 and 2001, my father fished recreationally and for our Tinian restaurant, JC Café. During this time, the
Photos courtesy of Ju
200 pound grouper, 1989
restaurant was proud to adopt the slogan: “We catch our own fish.” The fish served in our restaurant was caught locally, mostly by my father. When we finally leased out the café, and my siblings and I moved to Saipan, my father continued to fish and would drive his 14’ boat over to see us, always bearing the gift of the sea, his catch. One such example, was when I was in high school. During Lenten season, we decided to serve fried fish for our lunch fundraiser instead of the usual fried chicken or beef. Unfortunately, the vendor who provided the fish delivered only a small amount of too small and too skinny fish. They were so small that when we tried to fry them, we just ended up with crispy bones. At midnight, as a last resort to salvage our fundraiser, I called my dad. Lucky for us he was out fishing and on his way to Saipan, from Tinian, to visit. When he arrived, he donated his catch to our cause. And as a treat for all of our hard work, he threw in some wahoo sashimi for the fundraising team. Today at 68, my father lives just a few short minutes away from the ocean. He spends his time watching the news and visiting his grandchildren. His bait box and rod-and-reel are in his trunk, always ready for when the ocean beckons for his company and his family beckons for fresh fish.
Friends with a day’s bounty, 1988.
Kahlek By: JMF staff Photographs by Danko Taborosi
raditional techniques for catching flying fish at night using a torch, locally-made canoes, and nets woven with coconut and pandanus fibers is a longstanding tradition for many island societies across Micronesia. Pictured here, fishermen from Pingelap participate in in kahlek fishing for menger. Kahlek translates to ‘dancing’ and menger to ‘flying fish’. The evening of fishing started by launching the 3 to 4 man canoes by the channel near the main village on the island. Fishermen then paddled north and drifted down towards the reef while scooping up flying fish that are attracted to the burning ambers. The black line on the satellite image shows the actual route taken by fishermen.
Shem Saiwan (pictured on the left) is one of many experienced fishermen that regularly participated in Kahlek fishing on his island (Kapingamarangi) before moving to the main island of Pohnpei to become a master wood carver. He describes that fishing for this species is typically a seasonal event, spanning from January to June. Typically, the most experienced fishermen navigate the canoe from the back and handle the scooping of the fish, while the up-and-coming fisherman are responsible for holding the torch and helping paddle from the front. Shem further shares that other techniques, such as gill nets, were increasingly used to catch flying fish when they are attracted to the channel during spawning events on his island. Due to increased fishing, modification of the channel during construction, or a combination of both, he described that flying fish were in much lower abundances on Kapingamarangi during his later years there.
Â Pingelap Atoll, Pohnpei FSM
14 Shem Saiwan
By Pearson Scott Fores man [Public via Wikimedia Common domain], s
Continued from page 10
How did you know when you were done fishing? When my line was full, that is when I would come back. Most of it was for my family to eat, and maybe a little to sell. Today, some people fish to sell, some fish for their family. There is a fish market. That is where they sell their fish. The fish market started a long time ago. My father used to sell fish too. He had his own market to sell vegetables and fish. People have been selling fish for a long time. But now there are new fish markets. We don’t sell our fish off island—unless someone is going off island and wants to take fish with them. What are some of the challenges you have faced? I love fishing, but sometimes it is hard. Especially when you are against the current. I know a couple of guys who have drowned. Even my brother. He went out spearfishing and drowned.You have to understand the some people try to swim against the current, they panic, and then they can’t handle it. It is a risky job. Really. Sometimes people ask me to go get parrot fish. And sometimes I get mad…I say to myself, “What do you guys think? Are you crazy?” It is not that easy. It is very hard. This is not an aquarium where you can just easily
choose the fish you want. There are some guys who die doing this kind of work. If it is hard and dangerous why do you keep going? I keep fishing, I respect the water. I know when to get out. The wind might change you are in the water and everything changes. Like when it gets too windy, that is time to get out. Every time I go spearfishing I have to look at the current. See if it is good or bad. Sometimes when we are in the water spearfishing, everything changes… the wind might change or the current and that can cause problems. Then it is time to get out. Do you use a boat to go out? No I walk out. Did you make your own gun? Yes, I made my own gun. My guns are different than others. Most triggers are on the top. Mine is underneath. I learned to make them in Palau. I watched their carvers and learned. I also have an American style gun that I got in Guam. What is the favorite fish of Kosraeans? It depends. Different people like different species. But you can’t choose, you catch what you can catch.
Reef to Table From
Recipe Most know Sam Sablan as the Executive Director of Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA). However she is also an accomplished chef who has worked at restaurants and hotels including The 5th Floor, the W Hotel, and the Fairmont in San Francisco as well Barista Blends in Guam and the Palms Hotel in Saipan. She incorporates French cuisine methods and a California style—blending together multiple cultures and exotic flavors in her Micronesian cooking.
BBQ Parrot Fish with Kimchee Lemon Grass INGREDIENTS: 2 lbs. Parrot ﬁsh, scaled and gutted; 2 cups Mayonaise 1 cup Kimchee base 2 stalks lemon grass; cleaned, top removed, and bulb smashed 2 stalks green onion; cleaned and cut in half 1 large banana leaf; rinsed and heated METHOD: Prepare tin foil, enough to fully wrap the ﬁsh. Place the cleaned banana leaf on top of the tin foil and set aside.
Rinse parrot ﬁsh thoroughly, slice in half but with meat still attached to the ﬁsh. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise and kimchee base, mix thoroughly and set aside. Combine lemon grass with green onions, fold in half and carefully place it in between the meat and the bones of the ﬁsh. Place ﬁsh on top of the prepared tin foil. Add the mayo mix inside the parrot ﬁsh with the lemon grass and onions. Smother the remaining mayo mix to the ﬁsh, wrap and seal with tin foil. BBQ ﬁsh 15 minutes on each side. Serve immediately with sweet potatoes and grilled vegetables. For a complete meal, Chef Sam suggests pairing this succulent dish with Tsing Tao Beer.
The Mariana Islands Nature Alliance