Island of Pelagic Fishermen: Temporal Changes in Prehistoric Fishing on Fais, Micronesia (English)

The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology
Routledge ; 2011

This article presents an analysis of fish bones and prehistoric fishing on Fais in the western Caroline Islands, Micronesia. In total 18 marine fish families (26 taxa) were identified including two families of sharks (Carcharhinidae and Lamnidae). Our analysis with use of vertebrae for identification reveals that the total MNI (Minimum Number of Individuals) of inshore and offshore (outer-reef to pelagic zone) fish species is almost constant in Fais from initial settlement to early prehistoric times (AD 400 to 800) due to a drastic increase in the tuna catch. However, the number of tuna dramatically decreased after AD 1200. Although the exact reason(s) for such increase and decrease in tuna capture is uncertain, the increase could be related to changes in fishing technology, population increase, and possible climatic changes, while the drastic decrease seems directly related to accessibility of marine resources due to climatic change, particularly between AD 1200 and 1500. Based on these results, we further discuss the character of Fais fishing by comparing it with fishing on islands in other parts of Oceania.

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