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Regional News

Traditional fishing and the lunar cycle

THE past, obviously, is our history. It has been the vehicle that has carried us to this moment. We must understand and respect our past. The past should be a tool to appreciate the present and embrace the future.

Our ancestors, for example, observed the lunar cycle to develop ways to use marine resources more sustainably.

Many marine species respond to lunar cycles. Different species of corals tend to spawn from one to seven days after the full moon around the equinoxes, and other species gather to spawn at outgoing tides in specific locations in relation to moon phases. In the past, fishermen familiar with their spawning cycles and sites were able to make big catches.

According to “Traditional Palauan Lunar Calendar and the Fishing-Gleaming Activities of Reef Flats and/or Lagoons in the Western Caroline Islands, Micronesia” published in 1996 by Jun Takeda and P. Kempis Mad, some fishing lore and methods helped fishermen recognized the wind and the sea at any given time of the year.

The traditional Palauan lunar calendar is a culturally rooted treasure, rich in traditional wisdom and indicating the best times for resource exploitation.

The traditional calendar is closely connected with the selection of the optimum day, month and fishing grounds to use particular types of fishing devices and techniques.

Local residents interviewed by this writer believe that the traditional lunar calendar can help ensure food sufficiency and availability of marine resources throughout the year.

The future generation can benefit if many fishermen will use the traditional lunar cycle.

Another island resident, Rufina Angui, said her grandfather was from the outer island of Yap where all men were fishermen. She said they knew when to fish and what kind of fish to catch.

But today some believe that conventional monthly fishing patterns will change rapidly in the near future if fishermen continue to allow technological factors to determine their fishing methods.