Are stilt fishermen just a tourist attraction?

Culture, People

Most of the tourists would like to return from Sri Lanka with this characteristic shot. In many guides it is mentioned as one of the main attractions of this country, and also we all  know a picture with stilt fishermen,  taken in 1995, by the famous photographer Steve McCurry.

Along the 30-kilometer stretch of Sri Lanka’s south coast, between the towns of Unawatuna and Weligama, stilt fishermen are the most common sight.

How did this technique come to be known?

Various reports indicate that it began to be used after the Second World War. Initially fish were caught from the rocks rising from the sea and later on the technique evolved: they started to be caught with wooden stilts fixed in the coral reef. The fishing season begins with the onset of the Southeast monsoon: April, May and ends around September and October. Mostly small fish are caught, which feed on coral reefs.

Rybacy na tyczkach
Stilt fishermen, Sri Lanka

The catches usually take place 3 times a day: at dawn between 5.30 to 8.30, before noon from 10.30 to 12.30 and last from 15.30 to dusk, then the fish leave the coral reef. The importance of the caught fish is twofold: they are either consumed or sold.

For many of these fishermen, it is an additional occupation which supports the home budget, especially after the Tsunami in 2004, which totally changed the coastline of the island. Then some of the fishermen took up farming or fishing on the high seas. Often people spotted at stilts are  fishermen and they also simply pose as a tourist attraction.

Should we condemn them for that ?

We are tourists, we come to places where they are staying.

We would like to have a picture of fishermen on stilts, an iconic Sri Lankan image that we all would like to have in our collection. They only sell us their image.

They, the stilt fishermen give us what we expect … TOURISTS ATTRACTION.

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