The Herald and World Vision want to raise $100,000 for the urgent water and sanitation needs in the Hanuabada village of Port Moresby, and World Vision wants your long-term support for ongoing work in the Pacific. Each day we'll be reporting on a particular problem for the region and showcasing how World Vision has helped. Today, fishing to survive.

The waterfront village of Kamasina is the stuff of postcards.

Next to a dusty road, 20 minutes outside Bogia town on Papua New Guinea's northeast coast, traditional homes are made from woven leaf "walls" stretched between coconut trees.

These homes open on to the bleached, white sand which stretches all the way to the water. Children learn to paddle canoes and fish as soon as they are old enough to swim. This part of the Bismarck Sea is abundant with tuna, red emperor and marlin.

We were lucky enough to sit on the beach outside the home of local mother Sophie and eat dinner with her family. She was cooking fish her boys had caught night-fishing with goggles and a light.

Advertisement
Mother-of-four Sophie cooks dinner for her family in the village of Kamasina. Photo / Mike Scott
Mother-of-four Sophie cooks dinner for her family in the village of Kamasina. Photo / Mike Scott

In nearby Kosakosa, each dawn village elder Nelson Manamuso heads out in his hand-carved wooden outrigger canoe to feed his family.

The former teacher is also an expert fisherman and on the morning we met him he had quickly caught enough squid to cover his daily needs.

In Papua New Guinea, about 80 per cent of the population depend on subsistence farming and fishing for survival.

Their expertise could be worth so much more. Fish isn't only a valuable source of protein, it is a viable commodity. Locals are desperate to turn their fishing into an industry to provide better education, healthcare, and homes.

Children fishing from a canoe near Ngongosila. Photo / Mike Scott
Children fishing from a canoe near Ngongosila. Photo / Mike Scott

As well as selling fish, they could trade it. People in the highlands who grow other produce need access to fish. Coastal villages have a ready supply.

But isolated communities have trouble getting their catch to market and buying equipment to increase their take.

And without the security of a basic income, natural disaster or illness can have a devastating effect.

Nelson Manamuso enjoys a smoke on the water near the village of Kamasina. Photo / Mike Scott
Nelson Manamuso enjoys a smoke on the water near the village of Kamasina. Photo / Mike Scott

"Fish we use a lot to eat. But we have no motorboat, and no Eskies, no ice, to take them to market," says Steven Maogam, a member of the Kamasina village committee.

Pollution is another problem in Papua New Guinea. In the villages around fast-growing capital Port Moresby, it has disrupted traditional fisheries. Villagers have to use motorboats to reach a source of protein that was once on their doorstep.

Fishermen in the Solomon Islands are struggling with the impact of climate change.

David Mafani, chairman of the tiny eastern atoll Kwai, off eastern Malaita, says warming seas and increasingly erratic weather have affected the currents and the waves.

"Myself with others we use deep line fishing, down to about 200m," he says. "The changes we've found are mainly the movement of the current.

Night fishing is a common method in the Pacific nations. Photo / Mike Scott
Night fishing is a common method in the Pacific nations. Photo / Mike Scott

"Before, when current moved one way you were able to manage it. Now, it moves different ways on top and bottom. It's difficult to feel when the fish pull."

Scientists have reported ocean temperatures around the Solomon Islands warming 5C in the past 50 years. As well as currents and sea levels, this can affect coral and increase acidification, impacting fish stocks.

"That is very bad for us," says Mafani. "When you go out to fish in deep places if the weather is not fine it can do anything. You have to use another method so you can go in a shallow place."

The problem with fishing in shallow water, however, is that you catch smaller fish - which can often mean the difference between a good haul at market or a meal for the family.

Large fish fetch up to 100 Solomon Islander Dollars ($17), while the price for little fish is "low, low, low", Mafani says.

A fisherman casts a line off the East Malaita coast near Ngongosila in the Solomon Islands. Photo / Mike Scott
A fisherman casts a line off the East Malaita coast near Ngongosila in the Solomon Islands. Photo / Mike Scott

However, that's a better alternative to injury or death. Several Kwai people have drowned in rough seas.

"We watch the waves and then the big wind," says Mafani. "If the weather is bad, people don't feel like to go because you will risk your life. We don't go out in the bad weather.

"It affects the money. We have markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. That's when people expect the money to come in. but if people don't fish the only option is to go to the garden, or miss out."

World Vision can help. In Papua New Guinea it's partnered with communities across Bogia to help farmers increase food production, add value to their products and create more income.

Read more:
Rotting clinics running on little more than hope
Hidden Pacific: Q&A
Why we're tackling poverty
A simple weapon in the fight against disease

Support for Kosakosa includes a fish farm, due to launch this month. Fish will hatch in one pond, then be transferred to a second where they will be raised to fingerlings. After that they will be given to the community to raise in its own ponds.

The process will become a vital economic and nutritional resource.

"When the sea is rough they will [be able to] get fish from the fish pond, so they can always have protein," says Justin Simbaoior, the community member leading the project.

In Kamasina, World Vision has built a sheltered market so villagers can sell goods to people commuting to Bogia town.

Women who would once sit on the ground now have market stalls, tables and a concrete floor.

Previously they would travel hours by foot, goods balanced on their heads, to Bogia's "Golden Market" on Fridays, competing against hundreds of other vendors.

"We rely on our small market. We sell the things we bring from the sea, and from the bush," said Maogam.

Fascinating fishing techniques are used throughout the Pacific. An incredible style of fishing used in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands sees the webs of an orb web spider used to build a lure.

Using kites, fishermen skip the lure along the water's surface. Needle fish are drawn to the surface and stick in the lure.

When you see people doing what you know and love too, you feel that commonality. But their need is more vital. Fish is an essential nutritional need.

Just a few simple resources would allow them to turn their skills and natural resources into an economic opportunity.

How can I make a donation?

You can make online donations or phone donations.

Phone donations can be made on 0800 90 5000.

Click below to donate:
Donate to World Vision