The traditional sailing canoes of M’Buke Islanders
Last year in February, when I was still researching WWF Coral Triangle projects to cover for our expedition, I had heard of the traditional community canoe making project of WWF Western Melanesia Programme in M’Buke Island, Manus. This was not a small dugout canoe that I was familiar with but a big outrigger canoe that could easily sleep 20 people if they were tight.
Selarn Karluwin, the lone staff of WWF in Manus and a native of M’Buke expertly guided us to photograph his island’s special activities and conservation efforts
Selarn’s first suggestion when it came to accommodations in M’Buke was “do you want to sleep in the canoe tonight?” I eagerly said YES, but was vetoed immediately by Yogi who said although sleeping in the canoe sounded romantic, it was not a good idea. He wanted to photograph the people in the village and being on the boat will not give him access to the people on land. So sadly, I had to agree.
We missed the celebratory launching of the WWF funded community canoe by two days. The canoe was launched as part of M’Buke’s first Yam Festival where government officials, WWF Western Melanesia Programme’s new Managing Representative Dr. Neil Stronach and the local press attended.
As part of their food security programme, the community of M’Buke planted yam nine months ago and harvested them in time for their first Yam Festival
The community happily relaunched their canoe with our big Panda flag proudly secured to the boat. It was almost big enough to be one of their sails and again, we said no to leaving the flag behind. Our flag still had people to see, places to go . . .
We photographed the traditional community use of the canoe. A big group of men, women and children went off to go basket fishing and with a 25 horsepower outboard motor, the big canoe went to Champoin Island to catch some fish.
Brimming with activity, the canoe headed towards Champoin Island where our lunch of freshly caught fish was to be secured
Very tightly woven in a traditional fashion, this solid heavy piece of wood served as the outrigger to the canoe
Three men fished with a basket. They would look for schooling fish of sardines and this would then be used as bait for their hook and line for the bigger fish. We watched the men hunt in earnest.
With the tide fast becoming low in Champoin Island, the men prepared their nets to catch their bait using their sticks, net and basket
Busy with activity, community canoe working as a mini-community
Upon seeing a small school of sardines, the three men Chakumai, Chauka and Kisokau used the triangular net and their long sticks to catch the baitfish
Chakumai and Chauka kept trying until they finally caught a small amount fish enough for them to proceed to the next stage of fishing with their hook and line
In less than 20 minutes, our M’Buke fishermen caught 13 fish that fed all of us during our lunch break. Here is Yogi’s plate of fried fresh fish and sago mixed with coconut – utterly delicious fare
Through several years of collaboration, WWF and the M’Buke local communities have small steady successes to call their own. They have established Mbuke Islands Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA); drafted the management plan for the entire Mbuke Islands LMMA; drafted and implement coral harvesting rules and regulations; created three no-take zone sites; developed and support the implementation of community based biological monitoring, socioeconomic surveys, mangroves reforestation plan and nursery, coral replanting trail experiment, wildfowl harvesting control and community mapping.
Selarn in green leads his troop sailing back home to M’Buke after a full day out at sea
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Stella was born in Manila, Philippines in 1965. She studied anthropology but ended up in advertising, producing radio and TV commercials for 7 years. After quitting advertising, she ventured into the freelance world in Manila producing video documentaries for a publishing house, government agencies, non govenmental organisations, and the academe. She moved on to producing books and had a stint at working with foreign production companies visiting Manila. Stella, now based in Cairns, produces photo stories with her husband Jürgen Freund.