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Titiri, Titiwi, Titiree : Let them pass without let or hindrance!

As a child the titiwi, or titiree, or titiri season was usually between end August/early September. My Grandmother and other elders, had a vague idea of the ‘sprawning season’ by the moon cycle (they also knew from the moon cycle and cloud cover with regard to a good ‘jacks’ catch). It was usually one of the older boys who would inform villagers of the titiri arrival in the river.

As memories goes, I recall seeing large numbers of fishes swimming around in some of the deep pools of river water. I do not recall no one in the village eating riverfish - I remember young boys making fishing rods from thin branches (bless them, for their ingenuity) and waiting for a catch, but the caught fish was thrown back into the water. Here in the SWPacific, the river as a habitat is respected by old and young, based on their ancestral spiritual beliefs of passing things down as intact as possible down the generations, and respecting the cultural norms of living in harmony with one another and the environment. Everyone knows their place!

A few children use to accompany older teenage girls/boys down to the river, armed with a calabash bowl to hand scoop some of the 'titiri' clinging onto the large stones at water level. Of course in those days, the river was not in pristine condition, with soap suds as a result of Saturday morning clothes washing, bathing etc. The titiri were usually spotted late afternoon, or around midday (the river would be quite quiet), collection was solely a 'children activity' there was no adult involvement, as the river flow would be safe!. The titiri fritters were made by teenage children, (with younger children of course following) having gathered some wood, lit a fire (outside),flour was added to the titiri in a calabash bowl, fried, and eaten as a ‘snack’, it was not substituted for any meal. Personally, as a little girl , I did not think much of its ‘acquired taste’, I did not like the dark colour of them, it was difficult for me to spot them, as they camouflage quite nicely with dark wet river stones.

Their mass spawning migration upstream in there post larval stage is of course, for the sole purposes of reproduction and to secure returning nesting places for the next generations, arrival upstream is based on ecological factors, such as river flow rate, time of day, river micro climate, (usually quiet times when the river was absence from people activities). I am not sure how far upriver they travel, would they go from estuary to mountain source?

Of course, Mother Nature is very generous, taking into account the vulnerability of this migrating upstream and spawning would be in abundant numbers to take account of man’s culinary desire to cook ‘titiri fritters’.

In these days of what nations call Global Warming and Climate Change, and I believe God have his own names - for what nations have done to this place we call home, planet Earth. From a Conservation perspective, commonsense dictates to me, that if we think of connectivity dependence of land, sea and air, the elements - this fauna is essential in waters be it, salty or freshwater to provide ecological balance, no one in the right mind should be encouraging the taking of titiri from the estuary or as they battle to make their way upstream, - with me thinking along the line whilst taking into account, a part of a long sentence written on every passport, of which I quote…. … ‘to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford such assistance and protection as may be necessary’.

So, during this 2014, let the swarms of ten of thousands/millions of titiri complete their journey upstream and downstream in peace, and without a net, without them awaiting a bowl with flour in it, or without other trapping devices to reduce or hinder their ecological population. Their role as mature fishes are vital in both the fresh and salt water habitats ,eg Small Island states river flooding, maybe due to several factors of course, but one may have been the 'titiri' over-catching/removal from the river or rivers - for titiri fritters moneymaking rituals. Lets open an ecological equation: titiri fritters = declining population of fishes in sea/freshwater habitats.

When I was at school,at a young age, we learnt by rote loads of things, one of which was,... 'an island is a piece of land surrounded by water', well, let me rephrased the equation, an island may become a piece of land surrounded by water with less fishes in it - due to the desire for 'titiri fritters', and of course, less fishes may have a drastic effect on water flow rate on maintaining equilibrium.

Father God, you are the Creator of all things, you survey all the inhabitants of the earth, I pray that as the fishes swim upstream to reproduce, they will carry out their purpose of hatching their eggs in safety and with minimum disturbance by people, in Jesus Name. Amen.