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After long absence, akule have returned to Leone

It’s Akule (mackerel) season in Leone. It’s been 20 years since the Akule were last seen in abundance in the bay of the village of Leone — although last year March some were seen, but not many.

In January 2012 the Akule came back in large numbers, and the villagers are enjoying the plentiful harvest of the Akule everyday, said Maiava Fidelas Leota, a Leone matai.

Maiava told Samoa News the last time they had Akule swim right on to their beach was in 1982 — however, after that, the Akule disappeared and did not return until recently.

The matai said they are not fishing the traditional way, which would be using the coconut leaves woven into a net, the men would then come together in a circle with their woven nets to trap the Akule inside.

“Now since the Akule came back we use the smaller nets (kili) and we are able to bring in, on a daily basis, up to 7,000 and this includes the smaller Akule to the larger ones”.

Maiava said people from neighboring villages and outsiders are not allowed to fish for the Akule; only the Leone aumaga. He said there are more than 20 members of the Aumaga that go out to net in the akule almost every day, and it is shared among families in the village.

“Our village had a meeting and we decided not to allow any outsiders to come and fish in the bay.”  Maiava also said, “The Akule is not for sale”.

The matai says they take up to 23 coolers when they are netting in the Akule and after more than six hours out at sea the coolers are full. The catch is then distributed to every pastor, matai and family in the village.

“We fish for the Akule every day except Sunday, when no one is allowed to fish,” said Maiava.

Nofo Pio a leader with the Leone Village Aumaga said he suspects the reason the Akule did not return to Leone in the 1980’s was that some of the youth around the village played with the fish, “sticking a coconut leaf into the mouth of the Akule causing the fish to leave and never return... until earlier this year.”

Pio said the Akule is indeed a gift from God and should be taken care of properly, not played around with.

“The beginning of every year is usually Akule season, and villagers have waited for signs of the Akule’s arrival, since 1981, but they did not return until 20 years later,” said Pio. He added that since the comeback of the Akule, it’s been stupendous. The villagers fill up their coolers within three hours and then it’s shared among them, he said.

Samoa News called the Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources to get a comment on the return of the Akule to Leone Bay. According to a DMWR employee, there is currently no study being conducted on the return of the Akule to the territory’s waters — as Akule have also been reported in Nua & Se’etaga, and noted by villagers as ‘long time no see’.