Tokelauans are master fishermen, and many of the traditional methods for fishing are still a common practice. Schools of fish are attracted to feed at this isolated atoll, with a variety of fish species that fill the lagoon. Fishing is the prerogative of men and their knowledge of fishing lore has been handed down through the generations. The making of lures, fish traps, nets (of different types), seines, noose fishing is still common practice.
Canoes are important not only for fishing, but also in preserving the knowledge and skills for canoe building. Although modern boats are available, the traditional canoe is still favourite choice of raft for fishing, due to its flexibility and maneuvering when fishing. Another important aspect in peoples preference for using the traditional canoe is because of its reliability and safety on the open ocean.
Atafu is the only island, that still builds traditional canoes, and one will discover it a common site to see many canoes on the island. Atafu has been blessed with the abundance of the Kanava tree (Cordia subcordata), the wood which is used for building the canoes, that is lacking on the other atolls. The Kanava tree is sufficiently thick, durable, water resistant and hard, and canoes built from the Kanava can last over a hundred years.
Because of the complexity in building a canoe, traditional rites in canoe building are still maintained, with the master carpenter or tohuga requested to perform the task in building the canoe. The tohuga is the master carpenter and the designer and overseer of the project.