Village on the reef

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands

[CopyRight] Takekawa Daisuke & Ethel Falu, 1995, 2006

[Japanese] [Solomon Pijin] [English]


children with dolphin page1 Where is the Solomon Islands?
  • A chain of Small islands in the South Pacific .
  • Dolphin teeth are important for decoration and traditional money.
page2 Fishermen Looking for Dolphins off the Coast of their Village.
  • Beginning of the hunting season.
  • How to hunt a school of dolphins.
page3 Chasing the Dolphins with the sound of Hitting Stones
  • Dolphins cannot escape the wall of stone sound.
  • The fisherman hold the dolphins in the shallow water.
page4 The Season of Dolphin Hunting is the Season of Blessing
  • The meat is shared equally by every household.
  • Women from the mountains come to the local market to buy the meat.
page5 Reference
  • Web Sites and Books.

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands

Where is Solomon Islands?

Small islands in the South Pacific

map of Solomon Islands The Solomon Islands is an independent nation consisting of several islands located off the east coast of Papua New Guinea. They are famous as fierce battle fields of World War II, with fighting around the Capital Honiara on Guadalcanal Island.

Today the Solomon Islands and Japan have a good relationship. The Solomon Islands export tuna product to Japan.

Most of the Solomon Islanders 300,000 population are Melanesian. They have a strong body, black to brown skin and curly hair. There are many local languages but Pidgin English is used as a common language.

Besides the Capital and a few towns, people in rural area still live at a subsistence level using slash and burn cultivation and small scale fishing from canoes.

Dolphin teeth are important ifor decoration and traditional money.

malaita girl wearing teeth decollation In the Solomon Islands they use traditional money made from shells, feathers, or teeth of animals for special cutom trading. Especially in Malaita island, where the traditional culture remains strong. Here dolphin teeths are an important money.

In the photo of the girl she is wearing a headdress and necklace made by shell beads and sharpend dolphin teeth. They consider dolphin teeth not only as traditional money but also as valuable materials for ornaments. These ornaments weaved into treasures of the sea are very beautiful.

Only a few special dolphin calling villages are sources for these dolphin teeth. In these villages they still practices traditional dolphin hunting only using flags, two stones and dugout canoes. Lets see how they catch a group of dolphins next.

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands

Fishermen Looking for Dolphins off the Coast of their Village.

Beginning of the hunting season.

training young generations The Dolphin hunting site in south Malaita is a small village of only 150 people. From January to March when the trade winds stop, it is the hunting season. Every man from the village paddles a canoe up to 20 km out to sea to find a school of dolphins.

Dolphin hunting needs a high level of coordinated, skill and the technique of group fishing. The result of the hunt depends on the team work of all the fishermen. So they often discuss the process of driving dolphins with each other and give lectures for the young generations in the meeting house. The old man in this picture is one of the leaders and he shows with his arm the U shape formation of canoes when chasing dolphins.

How to drive the dolphins.

In the very early morning the fishermen leave the village in search of the dolphins. Once the sun rises they are floating in the middle of sea on small canoes. They wait until the black shape of dolphins comes into their field of vision.

START MOVIE If they are lucky they can find the dolphins but most days they go back to their homes empty-handed and exhausted. On average they succeeded in catching dolphins only 7 days in a season. To be lucky on these 7 days the fishermen paddle out to the ocean every single day of the season.

It is very hard to know the location of other canoes from one another. Even neighboring canoes can only be seen as small dots on the horizon. Experienced fishermen are able to monitor the whole situation and with very limited information can perform a very efficient dolphin hunt.

To help your understanding I will show you an aerial view of the formation of the canoes with a simple animation. It takes only a few seconds to play on the screen but you must remember that these canoes are spread out over a 10km area and it takes around 6 hours to complete a hunt.

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands

Chasing the Dolphins with the sound of Stones Hitting

Dolphins cannot escape the wall of stone sound.

stones to make a sound The fishermen hit two 15cm diameter stones together under the water to make a low strong sound. The distance of neighboring canoes are about 1 km apart when they start chasing the dolphins. Incredibaly even with this space between canoes dolphins will not go through the wall of stone sound.

hold dolphins Dolphin hunting does not succeed every time. If fishermen cannot find the dolphins they can do nothing, even if they find the dolphins, half the time they fail to drive the dolphins to the shore. On these days the fishermen feel heavy fatigue, much more than days when they are successful. There life of uncertiantity is much harder than the modern life of certiantity. If they are lucky, they drive a school of dolphins towards a narrow mangrove are, in a canoe operation that takes 3 hours. Women and children are looking forward to arriving canoes. Fishermen gain their honor, their faces are prideful as sea hunters.

People hold the dolphins in the shallow sea.

catch dolphins "Dolphins are coming to our village! Dolphins are jumping in the sea!" A shout of joy arise from the crowd. Dolphins lose their way in the narrow unfamiliar waters. The fishermen jump into the water and swim by the dolphins. They hold the dolphins tenderly. If you meet dolphins in the sea you will be surprised by their size, but they swim gently with you.

It is a story of calm afternoon of south pacific; waves make several ripples on the cobalt sea, mad coming up from the bottom shadows on green corals.

carry dolphins with canoe They catch about 100 dolphins in one successful hunt. They take large canoes to carry all the dolphins to the village beach from the mangroves. The dolphins are laid on the canoe one after another.

These dolphins are wander all about the Pacific. Considering the population of these dolphins it is a very small numbers which these village people catch during 4 month season. In hunting season they have no time for any other fishing. Given all the work required to hunt dolphins its not well remunerative work at all. But dolphin hunting is an irreplaceable activity for Solomon culture and life. So no matter how dangerous it is, they must paddle out to the blue sea everyday.

In THE hunt there is a deep emotional moment between human and animals. To experience this particular moment people stand long strenuous hours on the sea, over and over again.

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands

The Season of Dolphin Hunting is the Season of Blessing

The Dolphin meats are shared equally by every household.

sharing meet Meats is shared equally in the village. Those whose role is important position or those not even not on the hunt that day, all get the same amount of meat. Every household in the village has a right to the catch. Old people or widows nver lack food.

When I write like this someone asks me "So, a lazy man will go well in the Solomon Island?" actually there are some lazy men in the village as in all communities, but no one thinks they get a benefit being lazy. No one looks at them with envy. Because a lazy man is nothing more than a lazy man. People believe that to be "a great fisherman" is far better than being "a lazy man" because his life is only for the one time.

Women from the mountains gather at the local market to trade for the meat.

local market Once the catch is taken to the land, the job moves from men to women. We can see the same rule in many fishing communities in the world. The Fishermen dont care about the fish on the land. Dolphin meat is baked in a stone oven several times, taken to the local market and sold. This is all womens works.

Usually they open the local market at Saturday noon. But they will open a casual market if the mountain-people hear that the sea-people have caught dolphins. Mountain-people who cultivate slash and burn gardens, bring vegetables and crops, such as potato, banana, and cassava ... Sea-people bring marine products, such as fish, shells and dolphin meat.

Thus dolphin meat helps the neighboring villages; the teeth become an important social medium of exchange and circulate amongst the islands.

Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands


KIRIO means the dolphin in Lau language.

Village people think of the dolphin as "the fish of fish".
They really love dolphin as part of their family.
They are very proud to be called "People of the Dolphin".


Japanese Web-sites
Solomon Taem
Solomon Taem. 2000

Dolphin Teeth as Primitive Money
Dolphin Teeth as Primitive Money. 1996

English Web-sites
Dolphin Hunting Info. SPC Information Bulletin. 2001
Japanese Books
zoo archaeology "Dolphin hunting in Solomon Islands" Takekawa, Daisuke

The first paper that is reported the dolphin hunting in Solomon Islands. Mainly describe hunting technique and ethno taxonomy of dolphins. (Japanese)

"zoo archaeology" 1995 Vol.4 Society of zoo archaeology  \1600 (B5 pp89)

sea people "The village where dolphin is coming" Takekawa, Daisuke

A book for general reader, write about sea people in Pacific. Besides dolphin hunting also mention of traditional money circulation. (Japanese)

"Dolphin, Trepang and Sea people - Fishing culture in tropical" 1995 NHK books Akinichi, Tomoya ed. NHK \950 (B6 pp245)

Quarterly Journal of Ethnology "one dolphin hunting day" Takekawa, Daisuke

A documentary essay of dolphin hunting with many color photos. (Japanese)

"Quarterly Journal of Ethnology" 1995 Vol.73 National museum of ethnology  \2000 (A4 pp114)

The Life History of Solomon Islands "Dolphin teeth money" Takekawa, Daisuke

Information of Solomon Islands life. Report about Dolphin teeth money.

"The Life History of Solomon Islands" 1996 Akashi Shoten \2000 (A5 pp114)

English Books
"Ecological Knowledge of Fanalei Villagers about Dolphins: Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands 1"
Takekawa, Daisuke
Coastal Foragers in Transition,
Senri Ethnological Studies 42 p 55-65, National Museum of Ethnology 1996
"The Method of Dolphin Hunting and Distribution of Teeth and Meat: Dolphin Hunting in the Solomon Islands 2"
Takekawa, Daisuke
Coastal Foragers in Transition,
Senri Ethnological Studies 42 p 67-80, National Museum of Ethnology 1996
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