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Samoan Material Culture

Walled Fish Weirs

Walled Fish Weirs

The principle of the weir is seen in the v-shaped lines of coconut and banana leaves, and the winged nets with a purse in the middle. Walled weirs of stone were known throughout the group but confined to practically one village in each of the three large islands and the Manuan group.

The walls, made of loosely built coral stone, were termed pa and the fish weir, pa i'a. With the exception of scanty notes from Savaii, the data and diagrams here recorded were obtained from the answers sent in to Mr. Stokes (35) in reply to a questionnaire on walled fish traps sent out from Bishop Museum.

In Savaii weirs of loosely built coral were made in the bay at Iva. The rough sketch (fig. 259, a) was drawn for me by Sua of Iva. The walls were renovated each year before the season. They are not used now and have fallen down.

Regarding Upolu weirs, Dr. E. Schultz, Chief Justice of German Samoa in 1911, wrote in a letter to Mr. Stokes:

Walled fish traps are also unknown in German Samoa (Upolu and Savaii), except the village of Falelatai in South Aana (Upolu) where the lagoon is shallow enough to allow the building of such walls. These Falelatai walls are also called "pa." These Falelatai pas are built only temporarily and after use are pulled down again in order not to stop the traffic of boats in the lagoon. Size varying. Height about 5 feet. Each family or each fuaiala (division of the village) have their customary place where they build their pa. Some find it more convenient to make the pa of laufala (pandanus leaves) as the piling up of stones and their pulling down again means work. The following kinds of fish are caught in the Falelatai pas.

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1.Vete (chiefly—Mulloides vanicolensis Bleek).
2.Mata'ele'ele—very likely the first stage of the filoa (Lethrinus reticulatus).
3.Malauli—Caranx hippos.
6.'Umiumi—Polynemus phlebejus.

The fish were caught by means of a hand net by the men who are waiting at the entrance of the pa when the tide is going out.

There are as far as I could ascertain no traditions in Falelatai concerning these traps (my authority being a tulafale orator of the very best reputation in such things) and, as stated above, in no other village in German Samoa are such traps known.

Schultz also made the sketch of the weir shown in figure 259 b. He evidently had not heard of the Ivan traps in Savaii.

In Tutuila the weirs were situated at the mouth of a bay or lagoon between Nuuuli and Tofuna. From the notes supplied by N. E. Crosse, Governor of American Samoa in 1911, and Mr. J. L. Lisonbee, the following is recorded.

Figure 259, c, from Mr. Lisonbee's sketch shows that the walls were so built as to form weirs with the entrances opening both towards the sea and towards the shore. Fish coming in on the rising tide were caught in the
Figure 259.—Outlines of walled fish traps and modern trap (e):

Figure 259.—Outlines of walled fish traps and modern trap (e):

a, Savaii trap at Iva sketched by Sua. Curved walls stretched out from the shore, the opening closed with a leaf sweep after the fish had entered. b, Upolu weir at Falelatai sketched by Dr. Schultz. The curved walls were from 200 to 300 feet in length, and the narrow opening 2 to 3 feet wide. A scoop net was used at the narrow opening. c, Tutuilan trap at Nuuuli, sketched by Mr. Lisonbee; length of walls 420 feet, width across wider openings 400 feet; arranging to form alternate narrow openings towards sea and shore; fish caught at exits with nets. d, Manuan trap at Tau, sketched by Mr. A. G. Meyer. The distance on the beach between where the walls touch is about 250 feet but each wall ran out to a sharp angle a little distance from the shore. The distance between the outside ends is 100 feet. Used in conjunction with leaf sweep to drive fish into sharp angles (1, 2). e, Modern trap at Fangamalo, Savaii, made of wire netting attached to stakes. Two long lines (1, 2) intercepted the fish, which were led into the circular enclosure (3) from which the projecting arms (4, 5) prevented the fish finding their way out.

page 446 first set and fish returning to the sea on the falling tide were intercepted by the others. The traps spread right across the lagoon entrance, there being narrowed exits towards the shore and 6 towards the reef. The distance covered from shore to shore was about 208 rods. The walls were of coral rock from 2 to 4 feet wide at the bottom and about 3 feet high when examined. When in use, they were probably higher. The fish were caught at the exits with nets. The traps belonged to the people and had been in existence "before the time of the grandparents of the oldest inhabitants." These were the only traps known in Tutuila.

The traps were visited by Mr. A. G. Mayer (35) in 1920, but only the remains were seen. The walls were knocked down by a storm and the weirs have gone out of use.

In Manua stone weirs were used at Tau on the island of Tau. The sketch in figure 259, d, was made by Mr. Mayer. There are really two blind v-shaped walls with the long outer walls towards the reef and with a gap of about 100 feet between their ends. Through this opening the fish passed and when the shoals were in, a coconut leaf lauloa was drawn across the opening. It was then swung round in whichever direction the shoals went until the lauloa extended from the end of the particular long arm of the weir to the shore. The lauloa was then swept along towards the closed point of the "V" and the fish were secured by hand nets and spearing. In 1920, the pointed ends were in good preservation but I saw nothing of them seven years later. Kramer (18, vol. 2, p. 188) pictured the same weir years previously when it was being used to catch atule.

Both the Falelatai and Nuuuli weirs provide converging walls which force the fish through an opening into the net. The methods at Iva and Tau are simply an open enclosure which must be closed with the coconut leaf lauloa.

In Upolu and Savaii there are now many v-shaped weirs with walls made of wire netting supported by stakes driven into holes made with an iron crowbar. The shape of one seen in Savaii is shown in figure 259 e. The long arms were set so that they stood obliquely across the line of the falling tide. There were two widths of wire netting at the deeper part. A circle of wire netting was made round the apex and the two walls prolonged into it. This prevented the fish from getting out as they worked round the netting and could not find the opening. The form may be old but the method of execution is modern. At Fangamalo, large numbers of atule were caught. The advantage of a wire netting trap is that it is permanently set and does not need watching.