Cultural Significance of Sharks in the Pacific

Pacific Islanders have a close connection to the ocean. They live in an environment that is ruled by the sea. It is a part of their everyday life as they depend on it for food, transportation and survival. Traditions and beliefs reflect this interconnectedness. Sharks play an important role in most Pacific Island cultures and often hold a significant status as a deity, as a manifestation of ancestors, or as a guide to voyagers and fishermen.   

There are many similarities in stories told across the Pacific. Many of the stories are sacred and are not openly discussed as it is considered to be disrespectful. The interpretations can vary from tribe to tribe and family to family, and it is difficult to present this information in a way that will do it justice. 

What is important about these stories and beliefs is that it shows us that there is a different way of relating to sharks and the ocean, where humans live in harmony and not in domination of nature, where wild animals are admired and accepted and where the utmost respect is given to the forces of the ocean.

And this is not some mythical lost civilization - this is alive and strong in the Pacific Islands.

We believe this is one of the reasons why the small countries of Oceania (Pacific Islands) are currently making the biggest strides in shark conservation and are putting the large, developed Nations to shame.

Here are some interesting articles and links. Of course this serves only as a general impression of the topic as much of this knowledge will not be available online.

∇ Hawaii

On 'Aumakua - Hawaiian Ancestral Spirits

Gods and Goddesses of Hawai'i- The Demi-God Maui, The Shark God

Hawaiian Proverbs and Sayings That Mention Sharks 

∇ Cook Islands

Ina and the Shark

∇ Aotearoa (New Zealand)

Maori and sharks

∇ Fiji

Dakuwaqa The Shark God

∇ Papua New Guinea

Shark Callers: the Daring Spiritual Practice of Papua New Guinea

Stefanie Brendl