Tree-drying of octopus on Lofanga Island

Source of the photo:  Clifford Gessler, 1937. Dangerous islands

Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the website)

Historical Tree-drying of octopus




This black & white picture was taken in “Lofanga Island” during 1930s. This island (1.4 km2) which belongs to Kingdom of Tonga (South Pacific) is a small coastal community with only of 39 households and a resident population of 187 people according to 2008 census. Fish and seafood represent to the people in Lofanga their main protein source and contributes considerably to their energy intake. On average and based on a recent survey, the annual per capita consumption is approximately 65 kg for finfish, 17 kg for edible parts of invertebrates in addition to 21 kg for canned fish.

The absence of electrical power (event in the present) has influenced the day-to-day life on the island, in particular for the fisheries activities. Due to the lack of continuous cooling and freezing capacities on the island, sun-drying of fish products has been found –over centuries- to be the practical method to adapt in order to preserve and extend the shelf life of caught fish and invertebrates. Among the invertebrate catch, only octopus and giant clams are targeted commercially and could be sold in nearby market in its dried form especially people of Lofanga limited their visits to the markets in the main island to about twice a month. This low travel frequency accompanied by the absence of electric power has necessitated the adoption of sun-drying of fishery products. Also, the tree-drying of octopus is based on the forestry nature of the island and hence eliminate the need to establish the classic drying racks and so providing an example of the adoption to the natural resources and economic situation on the island. The dried octopus is popular and enjoy consumer acceptance and usually fetch attractive prices.

It may worth mentioning that Lofanga women are traditionally the major players in the collection, cleaning, drying and marketing of octopus and hence contribute substantially to family consumption of vertebrate as well as complement the household income.

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