A stone tidal weir is a traditional fishing method that is constructed on seaward slopes or within a fringing reef. It is basically a semicircle-shaped or horseshoe-shaped stone wall and the construction of it has a close relationship to tidal change. The fish swim or are driven into the weir during high tide but cannot find their way out during low tide. They are then caught in the shallow water within the weir by hand, dip net and so on during low tide.
Many types of stone tidal weirs are found mainly in East Asia, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific areas. In Taiwan, they are called chióh-hō. According to recent intensive research, over 550 chióh-hōs are still found in the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait. It is said that the Penghu Islands is the most concentrated area of stone tidal weirs in the world.
A few recent reports on chióh-hō fishing in Taiwan have elaborated various geographical, ecological and historical perspectives. However, chióh-hōs have already fulfilled an economic role. During the last few decades, most of them have gone out of use with the introduction of more effective fishing methods and modernized fishing boats and gear. It is, therefore, an urgent task for researchers to study the role and function of chióh-hō in local small-scale fisheries and the process of their disappearance.
The aim of this essay is to discuss the conditions of chióh-hō fishing in the Penghu Islands in the early 1910s using some papers relating to chióh-hō fishing rights, which appeared in documents of the Taiwan Government General. Discussion points are on fishing activity, period of construction, and ownership.
178 chióh-hōs were distributed in the northern part of the Penghu Islands in the early 1910s. Most of them were located mainly in semi-farming and fishing villages in Pai-sha Island and in the shore areas of solitary islands like Chih-pei, Ta-Tsang, and Niao Yu. Chióh-hō can be classified into three types: (1) semicircle-shape, (2) semicircle-shape with partition walls, and (3) two stone lines with a circular enclosure. Type (3) is the most advanced and efficient type.
According to the time when chióh-hō were constructed, the oldest ones were built early in the 18 century under the Ch’ing dynasty. On the other hand, the new ones were built early in the 20th century.
The actual possession of chióh-hō was shared by owners who invested their money and labor to construct them. They shared fishing rights and operated fishing by taking turns. In addition, they were under an obligation to maintain the chióh-hō.
In the latter part of this essay a variety of ownership and utilization patterns of 70 chióh-hōs in Chih-pei Island are discussed, where the author researched chióh-hō fishing activities in 1995.