Fisherwoman eyes palolo windfall

A Satapuala fisherwoman, Aiga Atapana, is hoping to cash in on the palolo season on top of selling assorted fresh seafood at the Apia fish market.

The mother of five, who is a fisherwoman while her husband works a 9am to 5pm job, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that her favourite spot to harvest the polychaete worm during its annual harvest season is off the coast of Tafua in Savai’i.

“For us, it’s always Tafua in Savai’i and you will see a lot of motor boats (vaa afi) traveling around. We go there in our motor boat because we have a motor boat,” she said.

“Whoever wants to get on the boat, you just jump on board. We were actually number one here at the market with our palolo catch last year.”

And while she traverses the expanse of the ocean plying her trade as a fisherwoman, she is now deeply connected to the ocean as it represents her and her family’s livelihood.

“We are used to it. These are the clothes we will wear, we will prepare our bags and prepare our fishing gear.

“I enjoy it. What we use to catch palolo are those screen wire materials that are purchased from a Chinese-owned store.”

Mrs Atapana has been selling seafood for nine years at the Apia market.

On Thursday she was selling a variety of fresh fish and seafood ranging in price from $5 to $40 tala. 

And while the palolo comes only once or twice a year, she is keen to harvest the worms on Thursday and Friday nights.

“I have all kinds of fish here and I have been selling here since 2011, that is when I started fishing on the boat. This is how I take care of family and fulfill my church obligations, and take care of my children who are in school,” Mrs Atapana said.

“But my husband, he goes to work. My two boys usually go out fishing. They go in the car to deliver fish and they go out on the boat to fish. I am proud of my work, it's seki.”

When the palolo rises, so does her profit. 

“All fishermen knew there would be no palolo last night [on Wednesday night] but there will be palolo tonight [Thursday] and Friday night,” she added.

“We came back with about 10 buckets of palolo from Tafua last year. We sold buckets and ofu [bundles] palolo. 

“But I don’t want to talk too much about the palolo in case a lot of people come here looking for it…if we catch palolo tonight then we will be here with palolo on Friday morning.”

A breakfast cracker bucket full of palolo was selling for about $2,500 at Mrs Atapana’s stall at the market last year with a bundle going for $50 tala each.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has projected that the rising dates of the palolo would be around October 8, 9 and 10 and November 7, 8 and 9.

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