Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Fishing ban helps kooey thrive again

COMMUNITY ACTIVISM Over-fishing in the Yulo Creek almost wiped out local fish stocks entirely, until one Aboriginal village worked out how to address the problem

By Lindy Yeh  /  STAFF REPORTER

A view from the surrounding mountain of the Yulo Creek passing the lower Shuitien settlement.

PHOTO: LINDY YEH, TAIPEI TIMES

After a three-year fishing ban, the Yulo Creek in Hsinchu County's Chienshih township is once again full of kooey. The silver color of these fish shine as the sun hits the water -- dubbed "daytime fireflies" by locals.

The replenished fish stocks can be attributed to the Atayal people's new awareness of the need for environmental protection, as well as their achievements in this regard.

Kooey used to flourish upstream in most of the nation's rivers. But over-fishing nearly wiped out the kooey altogether, so much so that sightings of the fish dropped to nearly zero.

Hsinle (新樂) is a small Atayal village in Chienshih township, with a population of only 1,564 people. The village consists mainly of two settlements -- the upper Shuitien settlement (上水田部落) and the lower Shuitien settlement (下水田部落). The Atayal village's lower settlement is located in the valley of the Yulo Creek while the upper settlement consists of households scattered on the slopes of the surrounding mountains.

In an effort to save the kooey population, villagers in the lower settlement have committed themselves to patrolling the 2 km section upstream of the Yulo Creek. Upper settlement members on the other hand assume the responsibility of guarding the Peide-laman virgin forest, located within its traditional territory. Since the creek flows past the lower Shuitien settlement, its members took on the duty of patrolling the creek after March 2001, when the county government approved the township administration's application for a general ban of fishing within the township.

"The natural resources in our village are not as abundant as in other tourist areas. We hope to attack tourists with our scenic hiking trails in the mountains and the clear river water in our village," Hsinle village chief Lee Tzu-chiang (李自強) said.

There are two patrolling stations in the settlement along the riverbank to monitor the creek. Adults living in the lower Shuitien settlement have to take shifts from 6pm to 12am to patrol the 2 km section of the creek and guard against illegal fishing, Lee said.

Since the village is very small, everyone knows everyone else, and except for illegal fishing, hunting and logging, there is virtually no crime. The safety of women and elderly people while patrolling the creek has not been an issue.

Now, after three years of enforcing the fishing ban, kooey numbers have recovered and the fish are easily spotted in the creek.

This makes Tanah Tazih (田利情), a founding member of the Shuitien Ecological Association (水田生態文化協會), proud of the villagers' achievement. Like many of his fellow villagers, Tanah, a former policeman, has advocated the conservation of Kooey for years.

"It was not an easy task to persuade all the villagers at the beginning," Tanah said. "In order to show them the fruits conservation work would bring to us, we organized a trip to the Tanaiku Creek (which passes through Chiayi County's Alishan township)," he noted.

The Tsou people's effort to recover the Tanaiku Creek has attracted numerous tourists, and is cited as a model for the Taiwan's Aboriginal villages, which are ambitious in developing their own tourist industries.

Tourism development is the driving force behind the growing number of guest houses in Taiwan's aboriginal areas, mostly in and around the nation's mountains and rivers, which boast some magnificent views.

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