Chris Gire, Matupit


As the sun peeks out of the clouds, life stirs in Matupit village as it would have done for decades, if not centuries. Chris Gire, a fisherman in his 50s, spreads the net and waits patiently. The bay is thriving with fish and forms the backbone of the local economy. Chris watches the water patterns, observes the forces of nature, and understands the seasons of various fish. This knowledge came from his father, who learnt from his own. Fishing is a way of life, and now it sustains the community of a few hundreds.

“The next generation isn’t patient; they don’t understand how important it is to communicate with nature”, says Chris who is also a respected village elder.

In 1994, when the volcano exploded violently, Chris was a young man. He watched and experienced the damage of the eruption – Damaged reef, bare waters and no fish. 2 years later, the reef rebuilt, the fish returned and the villagers came back home.

“Earlier, we would catch hundreds of fish a day. But it is not the same now. We are opposite the Harbour and sometimes the big ships cut open the fish. Our catch is impacted, but we make do.”

A good day’s catch will ensure income and basic essentials for his family. The fish are sold at Kokopo and Rabaul market, sometimes on the Highway to passing vehicles. It fetches them between K2 to K10, depending on the size of the fish.

But fishing could slowly become a relic of the past, with the local youth more interested in big city life. We ask him if he wants his son to be a fisherman as well? Chris thinks it through and answers. “I want my son to go to school and get an education. He is free to pursue a career. But there must be balance. This is a life skill, passed on from our fore-fathers and I want my son to know and appreciate it too. Old way of life and modern way of life – both must go hand in hand.”

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