Back in History: Serua’s fish drive

Women from Serua share a joke as they pose for the camera. Picture: FILE

You might arrive with a sunburnt nose and weary bones; you might even find yourself with a temporary aversion for seafood.

This report about a traditional fish drive on Serua Island was published in The Fiji Times on Saturday, January 1, 1972.

But if you’ve just experienced a Fijian fish drive on Serua Island, you will have memories to last a long time.

Since drives are held only when the tide is right — usually once or twice a month — relatively few visitors have had the chance of taking part in this exciting, ebullient Fijian method of catching fish.

Inquiries were made with Hector MacDonald at the Korolevu Beach Hotel regarding the dates for the drive.

Serua is a picturesque little island, only two acres in area, floating in warm, reef-fringed waters off the coastline between Suva and Korolevu.

It’s about one and half hours drive from Suva, 20 minutes from Korolevu.

The island was the home of the chief of Serua Province, big, genial Ratu Mara, and it was once the seat of government for Fijian communities living in that part of Viti Levu.

Preparation for the drive begins a couple of days before the tide is right, with villagers all helping to twist together hundreds of yards of thick vine and coconut fronds.

This homespun rope must be long enough to encircle perhaps half a mile of the reef, so that it may be used to heard together the maximum number of fish.

About an hour before the tide reaches maximum height, the rope is taken by punt to a certain spot on the reef and spread in a huge circle.

It is an operation involving much explanation and instruction from the headman and much light-hearted bantering from the 50 or so men and women taking part.

When the circle reaches maximum height and begins to fall, the villagers station themselves chest-deep in the water at certain points around the circle.

Then they move towards a central point, herding hundreds of fish before them.

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