Reviving Community Spirit: Furthering the Sustainable, Historical and Economic Role of Fish Weirs and Traps


Stone wall fish weirs and traps were once an important means for inland and coastal communities to catch fish. In many places the weirs and traps have been left to deteriorate and other more productive but less sustainable practices have taken their place. It was considered that they have fulfilled their historical and economic role and it was the loss of community spirit that has contributed to their decline. A recent survey in Yap, Federated States of Micronesia found a diverse and extensive number of fish weirs and traps, and a community keen to restore and reinvigorate their associated cultural practices and community spirit. The paper draws on comparative data from other places of the world to investigate weirs and traps, and to see if a similar revival could be observed. Of importance was a need to highlight the value of pursuing this type of research for contemporary communities and maritime archaeological practitioners in the current international management framework for underwater cultural heritage.

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  1. 1.

    Francis Reg was Yap State Deputy Historic Preservation Officer during the time of the project, now Historic Preservation Officer.

  2. 2.

    John Runman is an ethnographer at the Yap HPO.

  3. 3.

    Peter Reuchugrad, a former ethnographer with Yap HPO, now retired.

  4. 4.

    James Lukan was the Yap Historic Preservation Officer at the time of the project.

  5. 5.

    Falan-Gurumow is an elder of Yap and a Master Aech builder.

  6. 6.

    Pohnpei is 2,230 km east of Yap.


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I dedicate this paper to James Lukan who passed away in October 2012. Lukan was a very likeable friend and colleague, and like so many Yapese, dedicated to maintaining their cultural heritage and traditional practices. I would like to thank the people of the Yap, FSM; Yap HPO staff particularly James Lukan, Francis Reg, John Runman and William Pitmag; and Sibongile Van Damme, Jon Sharman, Shawn Berry in South Africa for making me feel at home when participating in these projects and for the great help from other colleagues in realizing the project outcomes. I would also like to thank the staff of the Tree Valley Foundation Archaeological Centre in Tainan and in particular colleague Wang Yu for her liaison with the Jibei Shihu Museum in Penghu. I acknowledge the great support of Paula Creech, Coordinator of the Micronesian Historic Preservation Program in Oakland, USA; staff of the HPO Offices in Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap in the FSM; Robert Parthesius and staff of the CIE, Leiden, Netherlands; the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa, and the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Finally I would like to thank Shawn Berry, Doug Farrer, Jeremy Green, Vivienne Moran and Wang Yu for providing critical comments on this paper.

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Jeffery, B. Reviving Community Spirit: Furthering the Sustainable, Historical and Economic Role of Fish Weirs and Traps. J Mari Arch 8, 29–57 (2013).

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  • Fish weir
  • Fish trap
  • Underwater cultural heritage
  • Yap
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • South Africa
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania
  • Pohnpei
  • Palau