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The Maori: Yesterday and To-day


The Maori was, and is, a great fisherman, especially along the food-teeming east coast of the North Island from the far north to the East Cape. He often went well out to sea on his canoe expeditions after shark and hapuku, but his skill and industry were chiefly devoted to hauling the seine in near the shore. Nets of enormous size were made, and catches of huge dimensions were got in the summer months. The largest net of which I have heard was one made by old Pokiha Taranui (known to pakehas as Major Fox) and his tribe, Ngati-Pikiao, of Maketu, It was just over a mile in length; its manufacture and handling engaged the full strength of the tribe, about 400 people. It was used only once, that was at the beginning of January, 1886, to secure fish for a great meeting of the tribes. The net was taken out by canoes, and the crews encircled a vast school of kahawai. Tens of thousands of fish were taken, chiefly kahawai. In the ancient days nets of such dimensions were quite numerous along the east coast. Even in southern districts, where conditions were less favourable, the people made nets of very considerable size. I have been told by old Maoris that seines that must have been a quarter of a mile in length were used in Wellington and Lyttelton harbours.

The subject of fish and fishing customs would occupy a book in itself. Here there is but space to mention some survivals of ancient practices associated with the tapu which pertained to the important business of catching fish for food. (The Maori did not kill animals, birds, or fish for the fun page 178 of the thing; he was no devotee of the art of whole sale slaughter which the pakeha calls sport.)