BY KHAMA LINCOLN In Gizo
WE usually appreciated fishermen when we see them displaying various beautiful species of fish at fish markets, what we may not really be aware of is their experience out in the ocean and at the market.
Michael Akwai, a 52-year-old Fisherman from the Fishing Village in the Western Solomons’ Headquarters, Gizo.
Like others in the fishing community, Fishing is the primary source of income for his family’s livelihood. He goes out fishing every day except on Sundays.
Akwai arrived in Gizo 30 years ago and has been practicing the trade for about 10 years now. He pointed out, nowadays is not like when he started fishing, when there are fewer fishermen and less competition in the ocean as well at the market.
He said, now there are more fishermen in the ocean, scanning and chasing schools of fish in all directions and competing for the fishing grounds.
Akwai’s group goes out fishing at night or any part of the day when they plan to.
He said, first they’ll have to buy ice-cubes from the local fishery center and a maximum of 30 liters of petrol daily at one of the fuel depots in town. The ice is very important to maintain the freshness of fish when stored in an Esky and placed in the canoe all day.
He also has to get enough food, drinking water, cigarettes, and betel nuts for his crew during every fishing trip.
Akwai and his boys used a fiberglass canoe motorized by a 15 hp Yamaha engine. He said, he used 15hp to manage fuel as smaller engines consume less.
His group mainly fish for reef fish from Gizo to Rarumana areas during days or nights.
“We use nets during days and nights for any types of fish, but mainly Mamula, Rainbow, and Buma,” He said.
The Father and grandfather who are originally from Lau in the Malaita Province often have five to six fishermen on board when going out fishing. They’re using two and a half and three inches nets amongst the reefs.
“I need five or six men to throw the net, and when the net is packed in the reefs someone has to dive into the water with a torch to free it.” He explained.
“Sometimes sharks broke our net, he said. “they saw the fish caught in our net.”
He pointed out that, fishing is also dangerous when fishermen meet sharks as well as starfish and others.
“When we see sharks moving around, we use stones or long sticks to create a disturbing sound to move them further away.”
“We have a fishing master who sits at the front of the canoe, to watch for the fish,” he said. He looks out to locate where the fish are feeding. He controls the skipper and gives a signal for the boys to jump into the sea with the net.”
“Sometimes we meet currents, during rough seas and rain. When that happens, we will lose fuel.” The Fisherman explained.
He said, every day he returns from fishing he has to recover the expenses, before making a profit at the fish market in Gizo town.
Akwai agrees that there’s a big difference in the fishing business compared to the past years.
“Worst nowadays, there is also too much overfishing.” He said.
“And sales at the market, not like before. Fish usually selling at 10 dollars drops to five dollars, while five-dollar ones drop to two dollars, customers don’t have enough money,” Akwai said.