After many years of living in the U.S.A. with frequent trips back to Samoa, Tapu Tai and Lynne Ah-Hi finally decided to retire back to Tapu’s ancestral home of Auala.
They have built their home in a small lagoon across the road from the extended family home.
Over the past eight years, they have been active in protecting the reserve out the front of their home in an effort to grow the coral and sea life in Auala lagoon and Asau harbor again.
Tapu along with other matai of the village declared a fishing ban within the reserve.
Tapu remembers a time when the bay around the Asau and Auala area was flourishing with sea life.
But over-fishing, pollutants, and lack of awareness about sustainable fishing have almost depleted it of many fish species.
“Back in the old days, you didn’t have to go outside the reef to catch fish, these days you’d be lucky to find anything in the bay,” he said.
“Our Faipule said they needed to grow turtle beach in Asau. They want to have more coral growing in there but he needs to talk to his village to see if they can leave it alone.”
Tapu said it was vital that people were educated on sustainable fishing.
“Leave the reserve, do not touch the sea. Let them grow, when there’s enough of it, it’s got to go somewhere and it’ll start reproducing. Rather than just slice a little bit of it to get the guts and then put it back in the sea where it can recover, people just cut the whole thing in half and kill it.”
Tapu and Lynn actively patrol the reserve in front of their home and there have been times when Tapu has had to go out on his boat to warn fishermen who are fishing within the reserve.
“I mean sometimes I’m sleeping and I wake up in the middle of the night and some people are fishing right down in the lagoon with their flashlights,” said Tapu.
“They are literally waiting until I go to sleep. The ban is meant to be widespread and includes my own family members. Even when my mother wanted some se’a, I have never gone down there or allowed anyone to go pick some se’a from the reserve – I would send them to Salelologa to get the se’a for her.
“They have also found it difficult to get a response from the Fisheries Department about replacing the reserve markers to clearly show the boundaries so that people are clearly aware of the restricted areas.
“We’ve asked the fisheries department to come and replace the markers for the reserve because they have all floated away and they won’t come and replace them. We have 18 species in that reserve that need to be protected in order to flourish,” said Lynne.
Looking at projects that would help to grow the coral reef and provide some kind of employment for an area that desperately needs it, Tapu is looking into growing green lip mussels within their reserve area which if all goes to plan, will help revitalize the reserve area in front of Auala up to Asau harbor.
“Our goal for the village of Auala is to curtail the deadly exodus of our most ambitious people who are forced to leave the village because of the absence of sustainable jobs here,” he said.
Tapu reminisces about Asau arbours glory days in the 1970s when the lumber industry provided jobs for anyone in the area willing to work and shared his desire to see the area flourish again.
He planned to write to their Faipule about dredging the channel and establishing new facilities at the wharf for water and fuel to attract fishing and yachting tourism.