On Sunday morning I went down to Laulau Bay for a beach cleanup, dive cleanup, and BBQ. Mark and Mike took pictures of the cleanups, so there is no need to rehash all that.
I want to talk about fishing.
I arrived at the Laulau dive site at about 8:10. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were about 15 people out on the reef shelf fishing. I don't know if it was several families or just one large family, but it was really cool to see all those people out there fishing together as a community.
They were standing on the coral shelf next to the channel that divers use to enter Laulau Bay. There is a resident school of Bigeye Scad mackerel and the fishermen were trying to catch them.
Some of the guys were using a rod and reel to draw the fish towards the other fishermen standing ready with nets. When the fish were within throwing range, the two or three men with talayas (fishing nets) threw their nets into the deep water of the channel.
Sometimes they caught some fish. Sometimes they didn't.
When they did catch fish, their nets were full.
When they took the fish out of the talaya, they piled them up in a floating bucket.
That's a lot of fish!
They even caught some of the larger pelagics chasing after the mackerel.
...but they didn't catch enough to even put a dent in the number of fish out there. Check out the baitball pictures on Mark's website. There were millions of fish out there. Using the types of nets they were using, overfishing will not a problem.
...but I did see a few other problems.
First of all, there is a steady stream of divers using that dive site. While I do not think that overfishing is an issue, I think that safety is.
Several divers were smart and chose to use the channel to left of the channel being fished. They were far enough away from the fisherman as to not disturb them, scare the fish, or get hooked by a fishing line.
However, a few divers chose to enter the dive channel being used by the fishermen.
That must annoy the fishermen. There is a perfectly good dive channel 10 meters to the left. Why not use that one? Not only will these two divers potentially scare away the fish (or lure them away), they are putting themselves in danger of being hooked.
I am not saying that fishing and diving can't coexist, I just think that there should be a few rules. The fishermen have to fish where the fish are, but maybe something could be done to warn divers that people are topside trying to catch the fish. I certainly wouldn't want to get hooked or trapped in a fishing net as I was entering or exiting the water.
Another thing that I noticed was that all the fishermen parked their cars and trucks on the beach. Not cool. Driving on the beach is illegal.
There is just no reason to be driving that close to the ocean. There is a very large parking lot at Laulau. Use it.
Driving on the beach drips oil, leaves ruts, impacts the sand, kills vegetation and turtle eggs, and increases erosion. It is also illegal. Stop it.
...and the police are not allowed to drive on the beach. They are breaking the law when they do it. Report them...or post pictures of them driving on the beach on your blog.
...and that includes not driving your pickup truck on the beach to launch your boat. There is a site on South Laulau that was recently designated to launch boats. Why are boats being launched from North Laulau?
So other than a few safety concerns, driving on the beach, and launching your boat illegally, I think this is a really cool practice.
There is no better way to pass on your culture and your language than to practice your culture with your kids.
I hope that 100 years from now, people can come to Saipan and see people fishing in the exact same manner I witnessed. I hope that fishermen are still feeding their families using the resources from our reefs. I hope people are still diving in Laulau, too.
So don't drive on the beach.