Some years ago whilst on an assignment in Fiji I was privileged to spend a few days in a village on one of the Lau Islands on the eastern side of the main island Viti Levu. During the time I was there inhabitants of the village were preparing for a yavi-rau and I was invited to take part.
I had no idea what a yavi-rau was but of course agreed to accept the invitation. I soon discovered that yavi-rau means to fish with a net. All the participants gather on the beach and, at a leader’s command, form a large semi-circle in the sea. Holding up the edge of a huge scoop fishing net the idea is to capture all the fish in the enclosed area and guide them towards the shore. As we advanced we were slowly driving the fish into the shallow water.
I was thoroughly enjoying myself when I noticed the teenage boys appeared to be having even more fun diving below the net. When I asked what they were doing one lad, looking sheepish, said, “All the gone yalewa ( young girls ) are wearing sulus and when they float up we can get a good look underneath!! You try, come on.“ I declined.
A huge amount of fish got caught in this way and on the beach it was divided up into piles - one for every family, larger piles for large families and smaller ones for the others. One of the teenage boys told me that they loved the yavi-raus and were already looking forward to the next one. As for me I enjoyed the whole experience and the delightful fish meal to follow. My underwater sights were to come later snorkelling on the reef.