“I was the third eldest of fifteen children and during the war years we’d always be out gathering tuna and kaimoana. But Mum and Dad only ever took two of us at a time when they taught us how to catch tuna.
“We’d gaff the eels in their hundreds and toss them into the shingle parua (pit) beside the drains. I’ve been there when over 700 tuna were caught in a night.”
Tuna migration has always had an element of mystery and strict tikanga has surrounded tuna harvest. They have traditionally been caught between February and April during the last quarter of the moon (hinepouri) when the nights were darker and the eels had begun moving down the streams and into Lake Wairewa, ready to migrate out to sea to spawn in the Pacific. Local whanau adhered to strict rules – food, drink and smoking were all banned from the drains and stepping across drains was equally frowned upon. I’ve written about tuna (eels) here before and shown the drying process at Rapaki, which you can see by clicking on traditional foods below this post. www.ngaitahu.iwi.nz