Sunday, January 23, 2011

A good day for fishing


Traditional activities on New Ireland one of the larger of Papua New Guinea's 600 or so surrounding islands, include shark calling, a unique and dangerous occupation that involves going out in a fragile outrigger canoe, rattling a bamboo and coconut shell implement in the sea, then lassoing the shark once it responds to the call.

Village by the sea; small boy blowing on a conch shell
When successful, the shark caller with captive shark in tow paddles up-river and announces his arrival in the village with dinner by blowing on a conch shell.

Mention catching fish with spider webs to a North American fisherman and he’ll probably scoff at the idea. But coastal people who live on a diet of seafood tell a different story. Spider webs are surprisingly strong and serve even better than fishing line for bringing in drummerfish.

Venturing into the forest at daybreak when dew is heavy on the ground, webs are gathered for fishing expeditions. A kite made of banana leaves secured with vines is assembled and long strands of web are attached to the kite tail. Once out at sea, the kite is let loose in the wind and the spider webs trailing from the kite tail skim across the water attracting fish to the surface. The fish immediately become trapped in the fine strands enabling the fishermen to draw them in.

Fisherwoman on the Sepik River bringing in her catch
River fishing on the other hand is a much more gentle pursuit.  Equipped with wicker fish traps, women set out in the early morning in dugouts and moor their primitive hollowed out boats close to the riverbank.  Children help with the fishing and at the end of the day fisherwomen and children return home with a juicy catch of prawns and piranha.  Although imported originally from South America, Papua New Guinea's piranha are not the ferocious variety.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 23rd January, 2011.


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