Photographer Chris Kirby is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photography essay. These images are from his project ‘Small Nets, Hand Lines‘. To see Chris’ gallery of projects click on any image.
The island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean lies just 25-50 kilometers off the East African mainland and is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.
Often referred to as the Spice Islands for its historic trading in spices, as an island, inevitably fishing plays an important role in feeding the local population of approximately 1 million people.
Fishing is predominantly an artisanal activity in Zanzibar practiced by nearly 30.000 subsistence fisherman using around 7000 relatively small wooden canoes rigged with dhow-like triangular sails. Motorization is still at a low level, perhaps around 500 out-boards and less than 100 in-boat motors.
Using small nets, hand-lines and traps, their catch brings in an exotic array of Indian Ocean species including: Snapper, Parrotfish, Rabbit Fish, Tuna, Kingfish and even Sharks and Rays. Spear fishing, mostly practiced by women – often in large circular groups standing in shallow waters – adds to the catch.
The fisherman sell their haul at small fish-markets dotted around the island. The village of Mangapwani is one such place. Here locals, mostly old and young men, but also highly decoratively clad Muslim women will join in the barter process to purchase the fish.
For the people of Zanzibar, fishing and farming are the main economic activities – along now with tourism – especially since the collapse of the world market-price for cloves in the 1980s.
By Chris Kirby