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Southern fish fences still withstanding test of time

Date Posted: 2006-03-17

Traditional fish fences are still a significant part of the scene in Okinawa’s southern reaches.

Called Nagaki, the fishing fences are still functional as a means of catching fish in the Miyako-Jima Irabu Island area. The fences are of such importance to the region that officials have named them part of the 100 fishing village historical cultural assets.

The Fishery Ministry says “this historical culture asset should continue to the next generation, and this Nagaki fishing fence is a wonderful way to do it.” The fish fence is created by strategic placement of rocks and stones in forms similar to coral. The Nagaki fish fence is constructed between Irabu and Shimoji Islands, creating a lagoon where fish can enter during high tide. An open gate is blocked by nets, and at low tide the fish are trapped within the fish fence parameters.
Fishermen say the fence is still useful, and “there are always a lot of fish in the nets”.

Akira Ishimine, Miyako-Jima City’s mayor, says “we want to protect this cultural asset. It is of great value for historical reasons and friendship relations between the city and villagers lives.” Ishimine says people should learn and know more about the lives of fishermen, and understand the toil and work involved. “I have been playing at this fishing fence since I was small,” he says. “I got fishes too.”

There were many fish fences years ago, according to Ishimine. “Miyako-Jima City had a lot of fishing fences, everywhere, but now it’s only in Irabu Village.” Ishimine called upon the village residents to keep it in good condition, so it lasts a long time.

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