Barber Shop Photos 11 – Stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka

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One thing that fascinates (and concerns) me about travelling is the effect we have on cultural and social practices as we trudge our way through countries that often have vastly different structures than our own.

This shot of the stilt fishermen of Southern Sri Lanks (this one taken between Migigama and Galle) reminds me of the way tourism can transform the way people live their lives.

As we pass. we are told that the Stilt Fishermen pass down their spot from father to son and that it is a highly specialised and respected profession, but also that these anglers are very poor.

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After a little investigation, however, you find that these men are not actually fishing – at least not for denizens of the deep – but waiting to pose for the rich harvest of tourists that travel along the coastal road.

Once you think about it, does this spot really look like the one you’d choose? As I walked up, the man on the right indicated it would cost me 500 rupees ($5 AUD)  to photograph them ‘plying their trade’ and a fourth man materialised from behind some shrubs to facilitate the exchange. We ended up paying 300 rupees simply for the experience of being reeled in by these most flexible of fishermen.

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Ultimately, we do have a large effect on the places we visit over time, but if these local fishermen can adjust their routine (they chase fish early in the morning and late in the afternoon when they are most likely to catch enough to sell, and then the turn away from the ocean and cast their net over tourists for the rest of the day). These men are still – as far as I can tell – not well off, but with business acumen like this, surely they will eventually become the sharks of the Sri Lankan tourism world!

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