Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori
Fishing-Nets, Their Manufacture and Use
Fishing-Nets, Their Manufacture and Use
Mention has been made of the huge seines employed by the Maori in sea-fishing. Dr. Thomson, in his Story of New Zealand, tells us that some were 1,000 yards long, and required five hundred people to draw them properly. Large nets could only be carried by double canoes, hence the use of the taurua on such occasions—that is to say, when the old-style double canoe had passed out of use, then two long single canoes would be placed side by side and secured in that position by means of poles lashed securely across them. A platform was then constructed embracing the width of the two vessels, and on this the net was piled.
Polack, an early writer referred to above, is responsible for the following: "The making or repairing of fishing-nets, or seines, some of which are several thousand feet in length, the material being unscraped flax, is the work of all the inhabitants of a village." Elsewhere he writes: "One seine, as we have stated, is often made use of several thousand feet in length, which comprises the work of almost every individual of the community, and is made use of to benefit all the part-proprietors connected with it."
Captain Cook, in describing a Maori fishing-net wrote: "It was five fathoms deep, and by the room it took up could not be less than three or four hundred fathom long."
In Bank's Journal of Cook's first voyage occurs the following: "We went ashore at a large Indian fort. The people showed us their plantations …. and after having a little laugh at our seine, a common King's seine, showed us one of theirs, which was five fathoms deep. Its length we could only guess, as it was not stretched out, but it could not from its bulk be less than four or five hundred fathoms." This was probably the same net alluded to by Cook. Again Banks writes concerning the natives of the district north of the Hauraki Gulf: "Fishing seems to be the chief business of this part of the country. About all their towns are abundance of nets laid upon small heaps like haycocks, and thatched over, and almost every house you go into has nets in process of making." Yet again this writer says: "Nets for fishing they make in the same manner as ours, of an amazing size; a seine seems to be the joint work of the whole town, and, I suppose, the joint property. Of these I think I have seen as large as ever I saw in Europe."
In Anderson's account of Cook's first voyage the following remarks refer to the Bay of Islands district: "We caught but few fish while we lay there, but procured great plenty from the natives, who were extremely expert in fishing, and displayed great ingenuity in the page 11form of their nets, which were made of a kind of grass. They were two or three hundred fathoms in length and remarkably strong, and they have them in such plenty that it is scarcely possible to go a hundred yards without meeting with numbers lying in heaps."
In Becket's account of Cook's first voyage it is stated that poor results followed the drawings of the ship's seine at the Bay of Islands, though the Indians at the same time caught large quantities. The success of the natives is explained by the fact that they watched the approach of shoals, instead of casting their nets in a haphazard manner; also, the natives' nets were of a different form, being two or three fathoms in depth and of proportionable length.
In the account of Wallis's voyage given by Anderson the following remarks concerning the Tahitians appear: "Their nets are of an enormous size, with very small meshes, with which they catch abundance of the small-fry; but while they were using both nets and lines with great success, we could not catch a single fish with either, not even with their hooks and lines, some of which we had procured." In this apparently the European fishermen were to blame, and not the paraphernalia.
In Roux's journal of the voyage of the "Mascarin" (1772) the following remarks on Maori nets occur: "Their nets …. are from 90 to 100 fathoms in length, and 5 to 6 in height. At the bottom is a case or basket in which are stones wherewith to sink the net…. All along the top, at intervals, are little pieces of a round and very light wood, which take the place of the corks which we employ as floats."
* See also tatai and tauhei in Williams's Maori Dictionary, 5th ed.
† Haukotia mai = intercept it.
Lieut. Cruise, a sojourner in New Zealand in 1820, wrote: "Our seine, though of the same size with others served out to King's ships, was contemptible when compared with those of the New-Zealanders. Theirs are made of a very stong kind of weed; they are immensely large, and they are hauled remarkably slow, but with great success." Crozet, writing of his observations at the Bay of Islands in 1772, stated: "Their fishing-lines, as well as their nets of every description, are knotted with the same adroitness as those of the cleverest fisherman of our seaports; they manufacture seines five hundred feet long, and for want of corks to hold up the net they make use of a very light white wood, and for lead to weigh it down they make use of very heavy round pebbles enclosed in a network sheath which runs along the bottom of the seine…. The knots of these seines are exactly similar to those of our nets."
I have no notes concerning the actual size of seines used in other parts of the Pacific area, but in Ling Roth's Natives of Sarawak, &c. we are told that nets up to 900 ft. were used in Borneo.
The generic term for nets is kupenga, but each of the many different kinds has its own specific name, as we shall see anon. The manufacture of an important net, such as a seine, was an extremely tapu task. Not only were all those engaged in the task placed under strict tapu, but the area surrounding the scene of operations was forbidden ground to all folk not actually engaged in the work. Much inconvenience naturally ensued from the enforcement of such rigorous restrictions. For assuredly they were rigorous: all adjacent paths, highways, canoe routes were blocked by them. Any person guilty of breaching this tapu by trespassing on the forbidden area would be seriously maltreated, if not slain. Any canoe passing down an adjacent stream or near a tapu beach area would be destroyed. This was one of the most inexorable phases of tapu. No fire might be kindled, page 13no food prepared, within the bounds of the forbidden area. Early missionaries were not exempt from these harassing rules. Not until the net was finished and drawn, and the tapu lifted with befitting solemn ceremonial, might people again traverse the closed area. Polack held the view that such tasks were rendered tapu so as to induce the workers to stick to their occupation and so remove the irksome restrictions as soon as possible. This is, however, looking at the matter from outside the fence; it is essentially a pakeha (European) point of view. Let us examine it from the inside, bearing in mind the mentality of the Maori, and his views and beliefs as to causality and the highly essential aid of the gods in all human undertakings. There was no need in former times to resort to stratagem in order to get such a communal task completed. All proceedings, and the place of operations, were rendered tapu by what may be termed the presence of the gods. No such undertaking could possibly succeed, in Maori belief, without the assistance of those gods, while their spiritual presence would necessarily bring the restrictions of the tapu upon the work and workmen. Such is the explanation given by genuine old Maori experts many years ago.page 14
In some places a new net was made for the purpose of taking fish for a feast to which members of other tribes were to be invited. The point of view was a singular one. The old nets had not only been used in taking fish for tapu members of the community, but were also imbued with a modicum of the tapu of the tribal gods under whose aegis they had been made. Now, if such nets were used in procuring fish for outsiders certain troubles might ensue. Those visitors come from a district where strange gods prevailed; certain evil influences might be introduced by them, and even active enmity, in the form of magic arts, was possible. He taonga nui te tupato—caution is a desirable quality. Perchance we may offend our gods. Let us then make a new net for this purpose. 'Tis better to be sure than sorry!
A peculiar and puerile divinatory act was performed by an expert in some cases when a new net was to be made. This expert would proceed alone to the place where the material for the net was to be procured, and from a plant of flax (Phormium) he would pull out two young leaves. Should this act cause a screeching sound (not an uncommon occurrence), then that fact was held to be an assurance that the new net would take good hauls of fish. As the operator pulled out a leaf he repeated the words. "Tangaroa whitia. Hui .. e! Taiki .. e!" One leaf represented the male element, the other the female. If the severed bases of these leaves were of a jagged aspect it was said to be due to the nibbling of the spirit forms of the fish that would be caught in the new net. The two leaves were then taken to the ahu* and there deposited.
In many cases a large net was made by each family of the village making a portion of it, and when these were ready they were assembled and joined together. Sometimes, however, a number of men would work together in order to quickly complete a net. In such a case the general plan seems to have been for the workers to be divided into gangs, each of which would manufacture a section of the net. The variety of Phormium called wharanui was a favoured material for netmaking. East Coast natives have informed me that as many as five men might be engaged on one section of a net, each man working a little in advance of the man next to him, so that they did not interfere with each other. The work was performed in the open, and certain restrictions existed on account of the tapu pertaining to the task—for example, no food might be brought near the place where the netting was carried on. This aspect of tapu was in evidence only with regard to superior nets, such as seines.
* Ahu (syn. tuahu), a tapu place whereat rites were performed.
The mesh of a large net, such as a seine, differed considerably in size, being much smaller at the middle part than at the ends of the fabric. The terms mata, raumata, tākekenga, and kanakana denote the mesh of a net. A wide mesh is called mata haere and mata tatahi, while matariki, mata puputu, and mata kutikuti denote a small mesh. To explain the mesh of a net a Maori will say, "He matariki te ta o te kupenga," meaning that it is a small mesh. We recognize two of these expressions in an old aphorism of the people—"Ka haere te mata tatahi, ka noho te mata puputu" ("The wide mesh moves abroad, the narrow mesh remains quiescent"). This saying seems to express the energy of youth and the caution and deliberation of the aged. A mesh-gauge, termed a papa kupenga, or karau, was employed by the Maori netter (kaita), but not invariably, for some experts used the fingers as a gauge, either bunching them for the purpose or forming the mesh over two fingers held apart. A gauge was fashioned from wood, sometimes from a piece of whale's bone, the sides or edges being thinner than the middle part of the implement. A gauge for a small mesh would be described as a papa kutikuti, and one for a wide mesh as a papa matahaere.
Netting was done from left to right, and on reaching the right-hand margin of a section the process might be reversed and the work carried out in a boustrophedon manner.
When about to commence the netting of a section of a net, a strong plaited cord, the ngakau, is doubled and secured by one end to a peg at such height as is convenient to the net-maker, who sits down to his task. On this looped cord the first line of meshes is made. As the netter proceeds with his work he does not leave the meshes properly spaced, or he would be compelled to frequently change his position; he pushes them to the left along the ngakau cord so that they become bunched together near the peg. In forming a mesh the operator holds the gauge in position, passes the strip of material over it, and hitches it on to the lower part of the adjacent mesh in the upper row. When the section is completed, then the ngakau cord is withdrawn. The first row of meshes made is called the whakamata. The term torea is applied to an extra mesh formed in order to increase the width of a netted fabric, as in the making of a funnel-shaped net.
These nets were made from undressed material, the Phormium leaf being merely split into narrow strips for the purpose. As the work of netting proceeded the operator had frequently to knot on another strip of material. In some cases small nets were made of twine made from dressed Phormium fibre. This twine was rolled into a ball for purposes of manipulation, and the ball was passed through page 16the upper mesh in the process. In making this form of net the ngakau cord is stretched taut between two pegs.
Old natives of former years were persistent in their statements as to the tapu of the proceedings when a new net was being made. There were very strict rules as to the preparation, and consumption of food and also concerning trespass by unauthorized persons on the tapu precincts. One old veteran concluded his remarks as follows: "Such was the procedure in former times, in the days when the mana maori obtained and we were our own master. We were then an influential people; but when Europeans arrived, then the Maori people were regarded as bucket-carriers, cask-rollers, boat-rowers, handlers of pick-axes and cooking-pots; such were the tasks of men. Women were set by you to cleanse garments, plates, dishes, cups, houses, and remunerated with a gown, as men were paid with tobacco and shirts."
In some districts, when an important new net was to be made, a party of men would proceed to the flax-grove in order to procure material. Each man would be clad only in a form of kilt, and these would be new garments made for the occasion. These men would each bring to the village a large bundle of material, leaves of Phormium divided into narrow strips, and these would be hung up until all was ready. On the following day a party of women would proceed to the place and procure another supply. On the third day the net-making would commence. When, in the process of manufacture, a netter had to attach another length of flax-strip he did not cut off the protruding ends of the splice. If in making the knot his finger became caught in the loop, it was a sign that when the net came to be used a fish would be caught by the head in that part of the net. But others say that it was an evil omen: that the man whose finger was so caught would die ere the net was used. Such beliefs, omens, &c., differ considerably in different districts, and, indeed, one may hear differing explanations in one village.
Mr. John White has noted a peculiar usage, connected with the making of the two main ropes of a large net, the upper and lower ropes, termed kaha runga and kaha raro. Two such ropes were made and conveyed by an expert to the ahu, or sacred place of the village, where they were deposited and allowed to remain, after which two others were made for actual use. Presumably the abandoned ropes were viewed as a form of offering. This was probably not a universal custom.
Some speak of the strips of flax employed in net-making as having been smoked in order to make them more durable. Captain John-stone mentions a needle, but the Maori maker of green-flax nets used no needle at his task. When watching a Whanganui native making a page 17net I noted that he placed one finger of the left hand through the mesh above and pressed downward so as to pull it taut. He then with his right hand formed the new mesh over the next finger, extending in a similar manner and spaced by eye; thus in this case the size of the mesh was regulated by the eye alone, the result being satisfactory, so far as a tyro may judge.
The first hauling of a seine was ever an important and tapu function in Maoriland. Many restrictions were imposed that day upon the community, for the people might not encroach upon the area of operations, and no food might be partaken of, or even prepared, and no fire kindled, until that first hauling was over and certain ceremonial performances concluded. At their conclusion a tapu fire, termed the ahi parapara, was kindled, and some of the fish cooked for the ceremonial feast that ever marked such an occasion. The name of the fire was also employed to denote this feast and function, and its effect was to abolish the tapu of the proceedings. The food was cooked in separate steam-ovens for different grades of priests, experts, and those of chieftain rank, and in separate ovens for males and females. At such ritual feasts the food for the ruahine, or woman employed to represent the female element in ceremonial performances, was prepared and cooked apart, as also was that for the chief priest, and that for the first-born male of the leading family of the community. These tapu persons were the first ones to partake of food, and after that the bulk of the people might partake of the fish cooked in capacious steam-ovens, termed umu waharoa. The ahi parapara rite included, of course, the recital of certain karakia, or ritual formulae, and indeed the manufacture and use of the net were marked by the use of charms at almost every stage of the proceedings.
One of the first fish caught was often used as an offering to the gods. It would be deposited at the sacred place of the hamlet, often on a small elevated platform thereat, or suspended from a tree or stake. This act was supposed to ensure good hauls in the future, to bring good luck. The following is a specimen of the recitals employed on such occasions—
Tena te ika ka iri
Matemate mai o ika
Kutukutua [?kutikutia] mai o ika
Pakoko mai o ika
Tena te ika, te ika i Rangiriri.
Accounts given by natives of different districts as to the procedure followed when making a first haul with a new net differ somewhat, as one would naturally expect. In one given by a northern native we are told that when the net was finished a priestly expert proceeded page 18to cut off the protruding ends wherever two pieces of material had been tied together. He then carried the severed ends to the ahu (or tuahu), where he deposited them, repeating the following formula as he did so:—
He ata whiwhia, he ata rawea, he ata kai taonga
Ka whiwhi ringa o aitu, ka rawe ringa o tangata.
The new net was then placed on a canoe and conveyed to the place where it was to be drawn. As the net was payed out the expert recited a long charm, commencing—
Te ika i Rangiriri ra .. e
Ka tukia i reira, ka ngarue i reira
Whare ripo, whare o Tangaroa rire, &c.
This expert would take one of the enmeshed fish with his left hand, face the east, then hold out the fish as he intoned a charm beginning—
Tenei hoki te kaha ka mau
Te kaha matua uta, matua tai taku kaha nei, &c.
He would then liberate the fish outside the net and allow it to escape. Should that fish at once dart swiftly away the fact was accepted as a good omen for the future: good hauls of fish would be made with that net.
On returning to land the expert took three fish from the canoe and conveyed them to the ahu. Meanwhile his crew did not leave the canoe at the landing-place, but awaited his return. The expert made three shallow holes in the earth, placed in each a fish, with its head towards the tuahu, and covered them lightly with earth; those three fish served as an offering to Tangaroa. The expert then returned to the canoe, whereupon the catch would be conveyed to the village and the ceremonial performances carried out. One tells us that if in the following day any sign of slight disturbance was seen where the three fish had been placed, then it was a sign that Tangaroa had accepted the offering therefore the net would be a lucky one. This account is said to pertain to the taking of the kanae, or mullet, and lookouts stationed on hill, cliff, or promontory directed the movements of the fishermen.
Another account tells us that the expert took one fish from the net (generally alluded to as the first fish caught) and, ere releasing it, plucked a hair from his head and placed it in the mouth of the fish. As he held the fish up toward the east he repeated,—
Te hau-e, te hau a Tangaroa.page 19
Waving the fish to and fro in his left hand, he continued,—
Tenei te hau ka iri
Te tama na wai?
Te tama na Tane, na Tangaroa
Taumaha atu na ta taua potiki
Whakaterea mai i te puna i Rangiriri
Ta taua mau, e Tangaroa!
Herein we see the meaning of the act of releasing the so-called "first fish." That fish, termed the ika whakataki, was liberated so that it might proceed to seek and guide to the net further hordes of fish. The charm recited over it would cause it to carry out the task. It beseeches Tangaroa to send the products of ocean—fish—from the famed Puna i Rangiriri.
In yet another account of the first hauling of a new net a second fish taken from the net was cooked and eaten by those who had worked the net. Then one was taken for each person who had taken part in the proceedings, but all the rest of the catch were liberated. The act of using a net for the first time was described by the term whakainu, and the same term was applied to the charm repeated when the net was being payed out. On the next day the net was again cast, and of the fish taken in it one was retained for each of the women who had assisted in procuring and preparing the material for the new net, also for any other folk who had assisted in the work. It was held to be highly necessary that the most punctilious care should be displayed in carrying out every part of the ceremonial performances, including minor details and ramifications. In this second hauling of the net a few fish were also retained for the decrepit folk of the village, but the balance of the take was liberated. After this the net was used in the ordinary way; the ceremonies were concluded.
* Tatai = to assemble, join together, as sections of a kaharoa, or seine.
Ei te ki, te ki nei; naumai kei he au
He ringa ropa nana i ngau te kaka o to pou
E Tangaroa .. e .. i.
The fragments of flax so cut off he carried to the tuahu and there deposited. He then returned to the canoe and entered it near the stern, stepping inboard left foot first. The crew then stepped aboard in the same manner. When the net was being shot the expert stood at the stern of the vessel and repeated the following formula as the net first touched the water:—
Tena te pou o Tangaroa, te pou ka rere
Ka rere ki moana nui, ki moana roa
Ki moana potango, ki moana pouri, ki moana huakina
Papa uru nui o Tangaroa
Tena te pou ka rere.
All this time the vessel was being slowly propelled by a few men, usually in a curved line. As the middle part of the net was passed outboard the expert recited another formula. When the net was payed out and drawn near shore the expert took one of the enmeshed fish, and, holding it with his left hand so that its head remained in the water, he recited the following: "Haere mai; haere ki tai nui no Whiro ki te whakataka mai i to tini, i to mano" ("Come, go forth to the great ocean of Whiro to assemble your myriads, your multitude"). He then liberated the fish. The net was then drawn inshore. If a heavy take of fish caused some doubt as to the strength of the net, then the priestly expert recited a charm, called a rotu, to deprive the fish of strength. A similar charm was employed by a line fisher when he feared that a fish might break his line.
When the net was hauled in, then the fish were collected and carried to the village, but ere any could be cooked the expert had another duty to perform. He took two fish to the tuahu, or sacred place of the village, and there suspended them from two stakes thrust into the earth on the eastern side of the tapu spot; as he did so he repeated, "Te mau na, tena te mau ka iri, ko te mau a Tangaroa." Thereby he simply asserted that the suspended fish represented the products of Tangaroa; evidently they were viewed as offerings. Then, standing facing the tuahu, the expert recited another formula, after page 21which he returned to the village. This account describes a northern usage.
An East Coast note is to the effect that one of the fish taken in the first hauling of a net, or the first taken when fishing from a new canoe, was burned as an offering to the gods. This ceremony was performed with a view to the success of the net, &c., in future operations. Good or ill luck lay in the hands of the gods. Man, be he never so skilful, cannot alone succeed in any undertaking of importance.
After nets had been used they were dried by being hung over a long railing. When stowed away they were folded up on elevated platforms and a roof put over them in order to protect them from the weather.
According to Maori myth, there was a time when their ancestors were not acquainted with the art of net-making. In olden times it was that one Kahukura acquired the art from a strange people, the Turehu folk. He chanced to come upon them as they were hauling a net under cover of night, and, owing to the darkness, he managed to join them and take a part in their task. His aim was to so delay them that they would be overtaken by daylight ere their task was completed; by these means he hoped to secure their net or a knowledge of its construction. The Turehu folk performed all tasks during the night, for in olden times the activities of many abnormal beings and supernormal objects had to cease when darkness passed. Kahukura effected his object by his deceitful manner of stringing the fish. He did not secure the cord so that it would retain the fish; hence, having strung a number, when he lifted the string all the fish slipped off it. He repeated this deceitful performance several times and thereby gained his object. He so delayed operations that ere the task of stringing the fish was completed day dawned, whereupon the Turehu folk fled in haste to their home among far forest-ranges, abandoning fish and net. This is how the Maori folk acquired the art of net-making; they had but to observe the fabric left by the Turehu folk in order to acquire that art. This episode is said to have occurred at a place called Rangiawhia, but it is probably an old-time story brought from other lands. The natives of Niue Island tell a similar story to account for their knowledge of the art of net-making. Our Maori folk have preserved the following saying referring to the deceitful act of Kahukura in stringing the fish: "Ko te tui whakapahuhu a Kahukura."
The large nets or seines we have been discussing are called kaharoa, and the following names pertaining to various parts of such nets appear in William's Maori Dictionary:—page 22
|Kaha ringa||..||Upper containing-rope.|
|Kaha raro||..||Lower containing-rope.|
|Pourakau||..||1. The pole spreader at each end; syn. taketake.|
|2. The outermost section at either end; also kauangaroa and hawhe.|
|Uru, or tu||..||The part first put into the water.|
|Ngake . .||..||Middle part of net. Also waha, takapu, &c.|
|Whakahihi||..||Part between the uru and ngake.|
|Matakeke||..||Sections on either side of the ngake.|
|Kahatu||..||Upper edge of a seine.*|
The floats were known as poito, pouto, korewa, and karewa. In some cases gourds were used as floats, but as a rule they were fashioned from some light wood, the most suitable being that of the whau, or houama, a small tree (Entelea arborescens). Colenso tells us that dry leaves of the raupo bulrush were sometimes used as floats, being rolled up into balls; these, however, would not be durable. Net-ropes were often made from leaves of the so-called cabbage-tree (Cordyline australis); these are stronger and more durable than any flax (Phormium) ropes. Another material occasionally used for the purpose was the stringy bark of Hoheria populnea.
In fig. 5 we see a number of sinkers collected on the coast in the Patea district; these were abandoned in large numbers as sea-fishing was gradually given up by the Maori. Fig. 6 illustrates ornate carved stone sinkers; these are scarce. Small line-sinkers appear in fig. 7, while fig. 8 shows larger forms attached to spreaders. Many of these illustrations are from photographs taken by the late Director of the Dominion Museum, Mr. A. Hamilton.
The term karihi denotes sinkers for a net, while mahe, maihea, and makihea are applied to a sinker for a fishing-line. These latter were of different forms, many being waterworn stones with a groove chipped out in order to contain a cord; such groove might be a longitudinal one, or across the shorter axis of the shorter axis of the shorter axis of the sinker. Flattened waterworn stones of ovoid form were much used for sinkers in some places; the writer collected about forty of these in half an hour near the mouth of the Waitara River. In every case these had the groove formed in the edges only of the flat stone; it was not necessary to continue it across the flat faces. Occasionally stone sinkers of ornate page 25form were employed by fishermen; in some cases they were adorned with carved designs. Labillardière, in his account of an interview with natives in the far North in the "nineties" of the eighteenth century, writes: "They gave us fishing-lines and hooks of different shapes, to the end of some of which feathers were fastened, which they use as a bait for voracious fishes. Several of these lines were of great length and had at the end a piece of hard serpentine to make them sink very deep in the water. We admired the fine polish they had given this stone, which was of a spherical form surmounted with a small protuberance, in which they had made a hole to pass a string through. It must be very difficult to these savages to bore a stone of such hardness." This form of sinker was common in the northern part of the North Island.
Apart from the great seines, many smaller nets were, of course, employed by the Maori, including drag-nets, scoop-nets, and other forms. Nets were set across tidal rivers, and, at some places, great page 26 quantities of fish were taken in this way. Nicholas has left us the following account of a minor operation witnessed by him in 1815: "Here were two canoes, with four men and two boys. One of the men standing on a rock to watch the fish soon discovered a large shoal of them rippling the surface of the water, at about a quarter of a mile from the shore. Another of them went in his canoe to drive the fish into the net, one end of which was held by the man standing on the rock, while, the other end being held by the man in the canoe, he let out as much as he thought necessary to embrace the shoal, hastening towards the shoal at the same time, and the situation of the net in the water described a semicircle of considerable extent…. The net employed on this occasion, though to us it appeared of immense size, Tui said was not near so large as they generally made them."
Two forms of net were employed in tidal rivers, the drag-net form and a large funnel-shaped form. There are several forms of funnel-shaped nets. The large one, used in tidal rivers, is known as an ahuriri or riritai. Small ones, also employed in sea-fishing, are distended by means of hoops; these are called matarau and tarawa. We know that the ahuriri, the bag-net of funnel shape, was made as much as 75 ft. in length and 25 ft. in diameter at the mouth; this form was set in tidal streams, and was apparently much used in the northern districts. The late Colonel McDonnell wrote of "immense tidal bag-nets, 70 ft. long by 25 ft. square at the mouth, narrowing off to 18 in., an immense basket capable of holding 2 hogsheads fastened on the other end. These nets used to be set near the mouth of a creek in the tideway, and held in position by two stout spars firmly driven into the river-bed, and were filled to tightness each tide."
Colonel Gudgeon has recorded the origin of the secondary name of the above net. In writing of Ahuriri, a chief of the Popoto clan, he says: "As an instance of the vigour and industry of old Ahuriri, when presumably over ninety years of age, he not only prepared the flax, but also, without any outside assistance, constructed a riritai net at least 75 ft. in length. The genuine old Maori chief believed firmly in the dignity of labour, and was always a leader of his page 27people in any work requiring skill and patience." The writer then explained that the old and proper name of such a net is ahuriri, but as this name had been assigned to, or adopted by, the chief, then another name had to be given to this form of net. "His name signifies a fishing-net shaped like a funnel; it is fastened to posts, and is used only in deep tidal rivers, somewhat after the fashion of a gigantic eel-basket. Now, it would have been most disrespectful to a chief to have called a fishing-net by his name; indeed, had any one offended in this way, the law of muru would at once have been put in force, and the delinquent and his friends robbed of everything they possessed. It was therefore necessary to invent another name for a net of this description, so the tribe called it a riritai."
The Matatua tribes apply the name of purangi to a net that was set across tidal rivers, but, as we shall see, this name was also applied to other forms.
Concerning the small funnel-shaped hoop-net called a matarau and tawiri we have early evidence. Banks describes a shallow form seen by him during Cook's first voyage: "It is circular, seven or eight feet in diameter, and two or three deep; it is stretched by two or three hoops, and open at the top for nearly, but not quite, its whole extent. On the bottom is fastened the bait, a little basket containing the guts, &c., of fish, and sea-ears, which are tied to different parts of the net. This is let down to the bottom where the fish are, and when enough are supposed to be gathered together it is drawn up with a very gentle motion, by which means the fish are insensibly lifted from the bottom. In this manner I have seen them take vast numbers of fish, and indeed it is a most general way of fishing all over the coast." These nets, be it observed, were much used where the coastline is rocky and unsuitable for drag-nets. This funnel-net with a contracted or partially closed top is referred to in Anderson's account of Cook's first voyage. He states that it was extended by several hoops at the bottom and constricted at the top. These nets were seen at Queen Charlotte Sound.
A Waiapu note explains that the matarau was much used in taking the fish calledmaomao. Two slack cords were secured at either end to the hoop that distended the entrance of the net, so as to cross each other, and to the junction of these cords the lowering-rope was attached. Bait was secured to short strings (tau mounu) that were attached to cords stretched across the entrance of the net; thus the bait was suspended.
Cook's account of the manipulation of the tawiri, or matarau, shows that it was lifted quickly when near the surface. This was observed at Queen Charlotte Sound on the 18th January, 1770: "As page 28we were returning we saw a single man in a canoe fishing; we rowed up to him, and, to our great surprise, he took not the least notice of us, but even when we were alongside of him continued to follow his occupation without adverting to us any more than if we had been invisible…. We requested him to draw up his net, that we might examine it…. It was of a circular form, extended by two hoops, and about seven or eight feet in diameter; the top was open, and sea-ears were fastened to the bottom as a bait. This he let down so as to lie upon the ground, and when he thought fish enough were assembled over it he drew it up by a very gentle and even motion, so that the fish rose with it, scarcely sensible that they were being lifted, till they came very near the surface of the water, and then were brought out in the net by a sudden jerk."
The following particulars are from Waiapu natives: Pliable stems of climbing-plants were used to form the hoops employed in distending this form of net. Across the wide mouth of the net were secured certain cords, and to the middle parts of these were attached the stout cord by means of which the net was lowered and raised. The bait was secured to the cross-cords, and a stone sinker was placed at the bottom of the net, while others were secured to the page 29 hoops. The net was made of twine composed of dressed flax-fibre but was reinforced with strips of undressed flax-leaf. A later note from the same informant states that the upper part of the net was of fibre, and the lower part of raw material, of which the upper part was the most durable. Such a fish as the ururoa might break through the lower part of the net, but not through the upper part. This informant also remarked that when the net was hauled up it was done in a vigorous manner, the result being that the fish were forced to the bottom of the net—forced downwards by the resistance of the water as the net was pulled quickly up. When the hoop appeared above water it was so manipulated as to turn round several times. This twisted the net-fabric and so brought its lower part, containing the fish, nearer to the surface. A length of rope secured to the bottom of the net was then brought to the surface by means of a hooked rod, and by pulling on this rope the bottom of the net was hauled up to the surface and dragged into the canoe; then the lower end of the net was opened and the fish emptied into the hold. In order to dry these funnel-nets after use they were hauled up to a tree-branch, or suspended from the summit of a pole planted in the earth in a leaning position. These nets differed much in depth. Various natives page 30 page 31 of divers tribes have given the name of this net as tarawa, tawiri, matarau, and purangi. Williams gives tawiri and tawiri pukoro as names for an eel-pot. In some districts both tawiri and purangi are applied to the guiding-net attached to the eel-pot when set at a weir. It is doubtful if the term tawiri denotes a hinaki.
A funnel-shaped net, nearly a dozen feet in length, in the Dominion Museum is an interesting variant form, inasmuch as the entrance is not circular, but in the form of a semicircle. This is the dredge-net form shown in fig. 10. The corf to the right has been strengthened by external bands.
Colenso gives atata as the name of "a small circular net made around a frame of wickerwork, baited with cuttlefish, and sunk in the sea."
An excellent description of the matarau form of net is given in the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 56, p. 631. This occurs in a paper on the Maori craft of netting, contributed by Dr. P. H. Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa)—one that describes interesting methods and implements pertaining to fishing.
So far as we are aware, the circular casting-net of Indonesia was not employed by the Maori, but the seines of Borneo, 900 ft. in length, were represented here, and the Maori eel-pot, with its' ingenious funnel entrance, was used in Borneo. Williams gives kaka as the name of a small drag-net used by the Maori. Otaki natives apply the name to traps used in taking the inanga in rivers; these were sometimes made of rushes.
The kaharoa form of net was sometimes used in tidal rivers, stretched across from bank to bank, an act described by the term whakau, as in "Ka whãkautia te kaharoa."
The toemi is a small hand-net in which the netted fabric projects upward from the hoop, and this is so manipulated by means of a cord that the mouth of the net is closed by the operator, thus preventing the escape of the fish. A specimen of this net in the Auckland Museum is roughly circular, and about 30 in. in diameter. It is distended by means of a number of cross-sticks arranged like the spokes of a wheel. The free edges of this bag-net are drawn together by means of the same cord that is used to pull it up. A somewhat inferior illustration of a toemi appears as the lower item in fig. 56 of Bulletin No. 2 of this series.
In fig. 12 we have a number of scoop-nets such as are used for taking the kehe fish on the east coast of the North Island, and in fig. 13 a form of net used in taking the kahawai at Waiapu. These are described in Dr. Buck's paper already mentioned.page 32
The following names of nets of various kinds have been recorded:—
|Ahuriri, or riritai||Described above.|
|Aruaru||A small hand-net.|
|Auparu||All oval frame net for river use.|
|Hutu||A net for taking sea-fish (?).|
|Kaka||Referred to above.|
|Kape||A small scoop-net.|
|Koko||A small hand-net.|
|Korohe||A bag-net. Cf. Rohe, Porohe.|
|Kukuti||Some form of fishing-net; evidently a descriptive name.|
|Kupenga||A small scoop-net used in taking kokopu.|
|Matarau||The hoop-net described above.|
|Matiratira||A net attached to stakes in tidal rivers.|
|Naha, or inaha||Netted fabric on inner end of akura of an eel-pot.|
|Ngehingehi||A net for taking eels.|
|Pahao||A small form of bag-net or trap.|
|Poha||A form of hoop-net used at a weir to lead eels into pots.|
|Porohe||A small net. See Korohe, Rohe|
|Pouraka||A netted trap for taking kokopu.|
|Puhoro||A large net for sea-fishing.|
|Pukoro||A long, bag-shaped net for eels.|
|Purangi||Referred to above. Applied apparently to several forms.|
|Ranga||A small net for taking inanga.|
|Rangatahi||A net about 10 fathoms in length. Syn. tawauwau.|
|Rohe||Applied to several forms of small nets.|
|Tarawa||The funnel-shaped net described above.|
|Tata||A small bag-net.|
|Tawiri||Referred to above.|
|Tawiri pukoro||Guiding-net for eel-pot at weir.|
|Tikoko||A landing-net with pole handle.|
|Tupoupou||A small net for fresh-water fish.|
|Wai||Bag of a fishing-net.|
|Whakapuru||A frame shrimp-net.|
The word hao is also used to denote a net. It is employed as a generic term, though kupenga is more generally used in that sense. page 33Karapa seems to be a variant form of korapa, a small form of net; while Colenso gives aropaua as "a double net for small fish." The bag or sheath in which stone weights for a net were enclosed was called a kopua.