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Regional News

Micronesia’s plants and traditional values

EXPERTS say Austronesians originated somewhere in Southeast Asia, possibly on or near Taiwan.

“These seafaring people needed three things to successfully sail long distances, back and forth across broad stretches of the Pacific Ocean. They developed the skills to create sea craft that involved the use of plant materials and stone tools to make canoes that were stabilized by an outrigger. Between their navigating, they introduced domesticated plants, and they used many species of wild native plants. Over time, they built relationship between the people, plants, and animals developed on all the islands in Oceania” which includes Micronesia.

Today in the islands, preserving the environment includes perpetuating the traditional values of island trees and plants.

Traditionally, many native plants were valuable for fishing hardware, according to researcher Dr. Mark Merlin of University of Hawaii.

Here’s what he said about them:

In the Marshalls, wood from the tree Allophylus timoriensis is used to make traps and fishing poles.

On Woleai the leaves of breadfruit trees are used to make a kite for trailing fishing line and as a lure. The insect resistant trunk and large branch wood of breadfruit trees are used in Chuuk (and other islands) to make the hulls of small fishing canoes.

On Yap, bamboo is used to make net spacers and fish traps, and on some islands, such as those in Chuuk and Kiribati, the stems of bamboo are used to make fishing poles and floats for fishing nets.

In the Marshall Islands, the fruit of the mangrove tree has been used to strengthen fishing nets, and in Kiribati its wood has been used to make fishing rods.

On some atolls, such as Namoluk in the central Carolines as well as in Kiribati, the wood of Calophyllum inophyllum is traditionally used to make goggles for spearfishing.

In Kiribati, stems of this tree are used to make scoop net frames and fishing rods.

Coconut palms are extremely useful plants all over the regions.

On Yap stems are used to make fishing spears, and the shell of the nut is used to make fish hooks.

On Ulithi the sennit fiber is used to make “sweeps” to drive schools of fish into traps, the burning leaves serve as “torches” for night fishing, and the shell is used to make one- piece fishhooks.

On Namoluk, wood of this palm is used to make fishing spears.

On Kosrae, leaves also traditionally served as a burning torch for night fishing.

In Kiribati smaller saplings are traditionally used for fishing poles, and its wood is used to make fishnet floats.

A Saipan resident who is originally from Chuuk said islanders also value native plants for their medicinal value. To preserve these traditions, she believes that the youth should learn about traditional healing methods and natural herbal medicines.