Fishing Lore of Tobi. Peter W. Black 1968, 2017

Felix Andrew

There are two kinds of turtles—those that you find near logs drifting far out at sea, and those big ones that come to the beach to lay eggs.

Each of these two types has two subdivisions—one smooth-backed and one rough-backed. The big ones that come on shore are not the parents of the smaller ones near the logs because those small ones have eggs inside when caught.

The small ones are about two feet across the shell and are called Hehewar and Fariyorung. The former has the smooth back and Fariyorung has a rough back.

The big ones are called Hachap and War. Hachap has the shell you can work—the Palauans call it Ngasech and it is a little smaller than War which is called Uel by the Palauans.

Only War lays its eggs on Tobi although Marcello and Nemesio did catch one Hachap in 1962. Although some people claim that only one kind is found in any one year in any one place, Felix says that they also caught two or three War in 1962.

He doesn’t remember about 1963 or 1964 but in 1965 and 1966 they didn’t catch any. 1967 was an average year (six or seven) and this year is poor so far with only one turtle by May 23.

Felix says the reason we have so few now is because in Japanese times the people ate all the turtle eggs they found, and now we have only a few big turtles who were born on Tobi. Most turtles these days go to Merir or Helen’s Reef. Before Japanese times and since 1966, there has been island law against eating turtle eggs. This year the turtle killed had already laid her eggs on the beach. Isauro, the municipal clerk, who caught the turtle, found her eggs and built a screen fence around them and covered it with thatch. He plans on keeping the baby turtles in the fence for one week after they hatch so they will have a better chance to survive. Nobody ever tried to do this before.*

There are three ways to hunt turtle:

a. Cuperiwar. Go out early and paddle around the island. When you see one flash your paddle in the air and five men will come out in a big canoe and catch the turtle.

b. Totohwar. You see the turtle from the shore and paddle out and catch it. Takes five men in a canoe.

c. Beni Ri Wor. At night you walk around the beach, on any tide except a very low tide, either with or without a moon. When you find a turtle, let her lay her eggs then turn her over and come back the next morning to catch it.

* On May 29 Isauro found seven baby turtles in his pen, 62 had already escaped, and there were four bad eggs. He put the seven in a bucket and fed them fish until June 2 when he released them.

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Updated: January 19, 2017