When I first arrived in the Maldives in late 2005, I met a Maldivian man who told me some pretty tall stories about the commercial fishing industry in the Maldives. His description of how Maldivian fishermen simply hook tuna and flick them onto the back deck of a fishing boat, felt to me like the stuff of strong national pride. The truth was though, I was interested in finding out more. To me the Maldives represented so much more than luxury resorts set against idyllic back drops. I was determined to find the ‘real’ Maldives.
It was 6-months before I managed to get myself onto a commercial fishing boat. I had taken a regional flight from the capital Male’ to Addu Atoll, the southern most atoll in the country. I met Ahmed Zahid – a friend-of-a-friend – who knew some fishing captains. Not long after I found myself boarding a 30-metre super dhoni (traditional Maldivian vessel), along with 15 or so Maldivian commercial fishermen, all of them strangers.
For the next 24-hours I drank endless cups of Nescafe 3-in-1 (think the sweetest, strongest instant coffee you can find), I slept on damp decks with fish smelling nets as pillows and I dealt with constant nausea from the open ocean swells. In between, I shot 600 plus frames of the fishermen doing what they do.
That day I learnt that even some of the tallest stories can be true.
It was true that fishermen use a barbless hook and they literally hook and flick the tuna onto the back deck of the dhoni. It was also true that they can catch tons of tuna in just one day. This trip alone, the crew pulled aboard 7-tonnnes of Skipjack Tuna.
I successfully sold this story (photos and words) to Sri Lankan Airlines Magazine Serendib, which was subsequently published in the November/December 2006 issue.
In my next installment I’ll recount my second commercial fishing trip, which lasted 5-days. The first, second and fifth image are available for licensing via Aurora Photos. Just double click on the image to license.