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Life From Above

Stilt Fisherman -Kogalla, Sri Lanka

Hidden away in a small community on the southernmost point of the island nation of Sri Lanka resides a group of a few hundred men with a highly specialized method for catching fish. They are called stilt (or stick) fishermen, and they have been perfecting this craft for generations. Stilt fishermen are some of the poorest people on the island. Even the simple bamboo sticks they use as fishing rods are handed down from father to son. They spend their days precariously perched above the ocean on a wooden pole that has been anchored into the reef. With one hand they dangle their bamboo rods over the water, with the other they hold themselves up. No bait is used, but they are quite adept at catching the surprisingly small reef fish they are after. Stick fishing arose from neccesity. An unobtrusive method for harvesting the reef, that would not cause the fish to flee the reef entirely was needed. So they float above, catching the fish as if it was were a bird plucking its prey from the sea. For hours on end he will sit with great agility on his stilt, catching small fish and placing them in his bag. An entires day catch will hopefully be enough to fill all the mouths that need feeding. Sri Lankan Stick fishermen face an uncertain future. Stilt fishing was almost cast to the history books after the 2004 tsunami decimated the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. A civil war raged here for decades, and ended in just 2009. Now the country can begin to rebuild. It remains to be seen if there will be a place for these unique people in the years to come. The innevitable development of coastline property may leave them with nowhere to continue their craft. I hope that won't be the case. I just feel very privileged to witness and capture this beautiful way of life. 


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