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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 10, 2000 - Vanuatu Weekly/PINA Nius Online)---What do I do to keep my outboard motor running well? What's the best way to catch pink fish? How do I look after my boat? What do I do if I catch so many fish that we can't eat them all now? How do I find my way to a good fishing spot?

Thirty-one people from Banks Islands were at Sola on Vanualava Island, learning the answers to these and other questions while they attended two courses run by instructors from Vanuatu Maritime College. The courses were officially opened by the Vice President of Torba Province, Edmond Hillary.

The fishermen and taxi-boat operators taught by August Fred, the engineering instructor, learned how to maintain and repair boats and outboard engines. As part of their training, they overhauled engines belonging to the province, Arep Junior School, the education department, the Island Court and a private operator. They pulled ashore four plywood boats, cleaned them thoroughly inside and outside, checked them for damage, and learned how to prepare them for repainting. They also checked a badly damaged seven meter (23.1 feet) fiberglass boat built in Port Vila and cleaned it.

Safety at sea was an essential part of the training. August discussed all the things that should be done before going to sea, safety equipment that should be carried, engine checks, use of life jackets and how to make an emergency sail.

Using templates provided by the Santo Boat building Yard, August showed trainees how to make their own fishing reels and secure them to their fishing craft. The reels were used in practical fishing exercises.

Nare Wolu, the Fishing Instructor, asked his trainees, "Why do we fish? What is fishing? What skills do we need?" They heard that fish is a valuable source of protein for their families, as well as providing work and, maybe, the chance to earn some money.

Trainees learned what materials and knots and splices they need to put their own fishing gear together for bottom fishing and trolling. These kinds of fishing were new to the four women in the course. Like the other trainees, they went out on short night-fishing trips, during which they practiced both trolling and bottom fishing. They learned the importance of keeping fish in top condition by covering the fish with copra bags and keeping the bags constantly soaked in cold seawater (no ice is available on Sola.)

In the classroom, the trainees learned how to use transits of two or three landmarks to find their way back to productive fishing grounds, how to use their bottom lines to discover the depths at which they are fishing, what kinds of fish are usually found at different depths, and the importance of tides and currents.

Other fishing techniques briefly covered during the course were fishing with traps for lobsters and freshwater prawns.

"Treat your fish like a baby" is Nare's watchword. Trainees discovered how poor handling can increase the risk of damage caused by bacteria and enzymes. They discussed fish quality, and the proper way to gut and gill the fish, clean them with the least possible damage to their skin and flesh, and fillet them. Fish preservation was a really popular session. The trainees made bottled fish flavored with tomato sauce, oil, onion, salt and (for those who liked it) chili -- a number one substitute for imported tinned fish. They built a smoke-dryer, using a 200-liter (52-gallon) drum, reinforcing rod and copra mesh wire, and flavored their sliced fish with honey before smoking it.

Under Nare's guidance, the trainees made a gillnet 10 meters (33 feet) long and 1 meter (3.3 feet) deep, complete with floats and sinker, and a volleyball net for Arep Junior Secondary School, whose classroom they were using. Each made a hammock to take home. They also had training in mending and patching nets and learned how to make their own netting needles from bamboo.

The taboo placed by Torba Province on gillnetting, spearfishing and shell collection in the area around Sola was a good example of the need to manage resources wisely. Trainees heard about the need to look after mangroves as a nursery for fish, and to avoid taking turtle eggs and female turtles so that turtles can once again become plentiful. He also explained Vanuatu’s fisheries law as it applies to such resources as lobsters, coconut crabs, conch shells, turtles, dugong and whales.

The final touch was the closing feast, for which Nare's trainees caught lots of good fresh fish.

August and Nare will go back to Torba in September, to run similar courses at Loh, for people from Torres Islands.

For additional reports from the Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/ Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire.

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