Gone Fishing, Tahitian Style

Stone fishing is a centuries-old tradition in Tahiti that is still occasionally practiced today. In the past, this particular method of fishing allowed small islands to catch enough fish to feed everyone in the community. Now, some of the islands still perform the ritual during grand occasions as a way to celebrate the tradition and invite everyone to partake in the feast that follows.

In French, the technique is called “la pêche aux cailloux.” In Tahitian, it’s known as “te tautai taora ofa’i” (tautai means “fishing instrument,” taora means “thrown,” and ofa’i is the Tahitian word for “stone”).

Stone Fishing in Moorea, PHOTO: Owen Franken
Stone Fishing in Moorea, PHOTO: Owen Franken

How Does it Work?

Stone fishing is similar to a cattle drive except the animals being “herded” are underneath the water. Powered by canoes, the locals start by beating the surface of the lagoon with heavy stones tied to ropes made of coconut fiber. This creates a frenzy that frightens the fish, coercing them toward the shore.

Once in shallow water, the canoes form a circle and drop a long line of coconut leaves around the perimeter. With a physical barrier in place, the fish are contained and therefore much easier to catch. Traditionally, the fish were collected in woven baskets made from coconut palms; but today, the fish are also sometimes speared.

The Island of Maupiti

Maupiti, a small island located west of Bora Bora, is home to approximately 1,200 inhabitants. Once every ten years, the entire population of the island takes part in a traditional stone fishing event with over 200 canoes on the water. Check out this video from the event in 2000. Although the narrative is in French, it will give you a great idea of what stone fishing is like.

The island’s most recent stone fishing celebration was the conclusion of a South Pacific UNESCO conference on sustainable development. Afterward, all the fish were released except for one caught by French Senator Richard Tuheiava, a Maupiti native.

Stone Fishing in Maupiti, PHOTO: Pierre Lesage
Stone Fishing in Maupiti, PHOTO: Pierre Lesage

The Island of Taha’a

The island of Taha’a will also have its own stone fishing event this year. The celebration is set to take place on August 3, 2012 as part of the closing ceremony for the Heiva i Raromatai (Leeward Islands) Festival, which started earlier this month.

Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa has arranged a special tour for guests to experience the occasion and take part in this special community gathering. The resort’s “Stone Fishing Adventure” includes your attendance to the event, a Tahitian lunch on a private islet, a cultural visit to both a vanilla plantation and a pearl farm, and the chance to snorkel in the resort’s coral garden. For more information, please feel free to contact one of our reservation specialists.


20 thoughts on “Gone Fishing, Tahitian Style

  1. Pingback: Island Tips
  2. this is great. would love to see that in person. looks like it’s hard work to throw those rocks!

  3. Sounds like a Hawaiian Hukilau. But I imagine those men have to be very strong to throw down those stones like that!

  4. very rarely do i come across a blog that’s both informative and entertaining. you’ve hit the nail on the head.

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