Tagged Industry

Maldives Fishing Part I

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.

Commercial fishermen searching for bait fish at night in a lagoon, Addue (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6 June 2006. Commercial fishing in the Maldives is the second largest employer after the tourism industry. The main fishing industry is centered on pole and line fishing for Skip Jack Tuna and hand line fishing for Yellowfin Tuna. The Maldives is a major exporter of tuna to European and Asian markets.
Commercial fishermen searching for bait fish at night in a lagoon, Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6 June 2006. Commercial fishing in the Maldives is the second largest employer after the tourism industry. The main fishing industry is centered on pole and line fishing for Skip Jack Tuna and hand line fishing for Yellowfin Tuna. The Maldives is a major exporter of tuna to European and Asian markets.
Commercial fishermen sleeping on the back deck of a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen sleeping on the back deck of a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fisherman sleeping on the back deck of a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fisherman sleeping on the back deck of a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen pulling aboard a Skip Jack tuna on a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen pulling aboard a Skip Jack tuna on a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
A commercial fisherman pulling aboard a Skip Jack tuna on a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
A commercial fisherman pulling aboard a Skip Jack tuna on a commercial fishing dhoni (traditional Maldivian boat), off the coast of Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Indian Ocean, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen getting ready to unload Skip Jack Tuna to a processing vessel, Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen getting ready to unload Skip Jack Tuna to a processing vessel, Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen getting ready to unload Skip Jack Tuna to a processing vessel, Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006
Commercial fishermen getting ready to unload Skip Jack Tuna to a processing vessel, Addu (Seenu) Atoll, Maldives, on the 6th of June 2006

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Back on the Commercial Fishing Boats, Maldives

During my two year stay in the Maldives, I spent a total of 6-days on commercial fishing vessels. During that time I learnt first hand what life is like for commercial fishermen. I also gained a valuable insight into the fishing industry and how important two species of tuna – Skipjack and Yellowfin – are to the Maldives’ economy.

Photography on commercial fishing vessels is probably the hardest thing I have had to shoot. In no particular order, here is a list of challenges I have faced while onboard commercial fishing vessels in the Maldives:

Lack of Sleep

Commercial fishermen are masters at cat napping. Getting 90-minutes to two hours of sleep between fishing action is pretty common. You sleep on the deck where ever there is space.

Sea Sickness

Generally speaking, I travel well on open ocean vessels. However I do experience some nausea during the first day or two at sea.

A Dangerous Work Environment

Photography comes second to safety when I am on a commercial fishing vessel. Rule number one is to look after myself. Rule number two is don’t endanger the safety of any of the fishermen onboard.

The reality is, you are on a large, wide deck with no railings and there are open hatches – complete with 6-foot drops – all over the place. If that wasn’t enough, decks are often slippery and when the fishing starts the deck becomes the work area for up to 20-men, depending on how many crew are on board.

Getting Hit by a Flying Tuna

Sounds pretty funny, but the reality with pole and line fishing is that tuna once hooked, literally fly out of the water and onto the back deck.

The drop zone is clear of men when the fishing is going, but having said that I watched a 6-9 kilogram tuna fly over my head last week and land in the bait hatch. That was a distance of 18-metres (60-feet) from the back deck where the fisherman was. To get hit by a tuna that size is no laughing matter.

Technical Photography

Photographically it is tough because you are half asleep and having to deal with all sorts of shooting conditions. It can be pitch dark; it can be raining; the action can be happening incredibly fast; the light changes with the position of the vessel, so getting consistent manual exposures is difficult and of course, the vessel is continuously moving around, so composition is tough too.

Despite these challenges, I love it. I really do.

I love seeing the darkness of night slip away to reveal a new day. I love the early morning and the magical light you get for just a few minutes. I love the split second action and the sheer challenge of producing good visuals. Most of all, I love those moments when everything is quite on the vessel and you can just sit back and experience the many moods of the ocean.

While I’m still editing my work from my two days shooting last week, here are two that I like.

Peak fishing action, 17 nautical miles east of Addu Atoll, Maldives.
Peak fishing action, 17 nautical miles east of Addu Atoll, Maldives.
Down time - taking a quick cigarette break near Addu Atoll, Maldives.
Down time - taking a quick cigarette break near Addu Atoll, Maldives.

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Industrial Photography

Portrait of a worker at a fish processing factory.
Portrait of a worker at a fish processing factory.

I love industrial locations and I love to photograph them and the people that work at them.

The first time I ever actually stepped onto an industrial location was back when I was 18 and labouring for a hydraulics firm that specialised in – you guessed it – industrial hydraulics and maintenance.

I used to work summers in between my studies at university. It was hot, tiring work, but I loved nothing more than visiting a new factory, walking into an air craft sized hangar filled to the brim with machinery. At the time it felt like a secret world. A place beyond the every day, a place complete with fortress like fences and security guards. It was also a place where I was actually learning how things were made and where they came from.

I’ll never forget walking into the Comalco factory (they make aluminum cans) and seeing the 20-metre long display on the wall that was filled with a sample of every can – complete with art work – that had ever come off the production line. It spanned decades.

Now days I look forward to jobs that involve industrial locations.

As a photographer I find them incredibly visual. As a person, I still get that giddy feeling of ‘what am I going to see behind these gigantic sized doors’? moments before walking through.

To see samples of recent industrial work, please go to www.thomaspickard.com and click on Industry

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