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Early morning hunt for ‘palolo’ reef worms

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Oct. 29, 2010) - Some local residents have predicted that palolo would swarm early Friday morning while some locals believe it will be early Saturday morning (October. 30), that the Samoan delicacy will surface.

However, we will all find out today whose predictions are correct for this year. A handful of palolo catchers say they were planning to take a chance early this morning and again in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources Coral Reef Monitoring, Ecologist Douglas Fenner told Samoa News yesterday that palolo is predicted to occur seven days after the full moon.

"The Full moon was last Friday, October 22, seven days later is Friday, October 29. Spawning is usually about 1 a.m.," said Fenner, who noted that if palolo catchers were out last night, then 1 a.m. will actually be Friday, so maybe they will spawn at that time.

"Or maybe they will spawn if we go out tonight" he said.

Ale Filoiali’i in Manu’a said via telephone that residents of the island group were planning to go out last night heading into the wee hours this morning and if the palolo is weak, that means tonight is the perfect night for palolo harvesting.

This was the same reaction from others on Tutuila reached by telephone and e-mail yesterday afternoon.

Palolo are greenish-brown reef spawn that squirm their way to the ocean’s surface either in October or November each year. It is the treasured green edible portion of the polychaete worm that lives in shallow coral reefs of the Samoan islands.

Fenner explained that palolo are "segmented worms a little like earthworms." They live in holes in the rocks, he said.

"In the past few months they grew an extra tail end, full of eggs or sperm. At 1 am, they back out of the hole in the rock and the tail end breaks off and swims up to the surface, he continued. The head end of the worm then crawls back into the hole to live on. The tail that is female is blue-green and the male is tan. Then after a while they explode and the sperm fertilizes the eggs, which grow into baby worms that go back down to the reef and go in a hole. Some people say the worms ‘dissolve’ which is when they explode. People catch them first so they can eat them," said Fenner.

And some palolo catchers will actually eat palolo right there at sea.

Some palolo catchers are planning to head a little way out from the shore in their boats, where in the past palolo has been plentiful, compared to palolo that come close to the shoreline.

Many families freeze their palolo in order to keep them for the holidays or for special occasions, or to be eaten when special guests are on island.

Check out the Market Place in Fagatogo, some local stores or roadside vendors to see if palolo is being sold today.

If you find a location where palolo is available please let us know at Samoa News. Or if you are a palolo catcher and you were lucky we’d like to hear from you.

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