Dolphin Hunting

A seafaring people, Solomon Islanders have relied on the ocean’s bounty for centuries, including its variety of dolphin species. A small number of tribes developed traditions of hunting dolphins using small canoes and noise to drive them to shore. People on the island of Malaita prize certain species of dolphins for their teeth, since they are used as currency, as well as in bridal dowries. Dolphin meat is also valued as a food source and to trade with the “Bush” tribes for yams, sweet potatoes, corn and other produce not available on Fanalei.


Single canoes, without an outrigger, are used. Large canoes, such as sar- alaku, beroko or olaisula were used in former times, but today small canoes (aigalua) are the most common. To drive dolphins, hunters hit two 15-cm diameter stones (nagi) together beneath the sea surface. The very hard, unsplit flint from which they are made is obtained from Rauafu Island, about 50 km north off Fanalei. Signal flags (boko) are used to communicate among canoes dispersed more than 2 km apart. These are a strikingly coloured piece of cloth of about 80 cm attached to a 4m length of bamboo. Nets are sometimes used to catch dolphins in mangroves.

Driving dolphins to the Fanalei passage. Image Courtesy Daisuke Takekawa

Driving dolphins to the Fanalei passage.
Image Courtesy Daisuke Takekawa

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