Artisan fishing is a term used to describe small-scale low-technology commercial or subsistence fishing practices. The term particularly applies to coastal or island ethnic groups using traditional techniques such as rod and tackle, arrows and harpoons, throw nets and drag nets, and traditional fishing boats. It does not usually cover the concept of fishing for sport, and might be used when talking about the pressures between large-scale modern commercial fishing practises and traditional methods, or when aid programs are targeted specifically at fishing at or near subsistence levels.
One of the most iconic scenes your bound to see in Sri Lanka is stilt fishing. Sri Lanka is unique for its Stilt Fishermen of its west coast – fishermen who sit on small benches on poles stuck into the water a few meters offshore and fish for small reef fish called ‘Bollu’ and ‘Koramburuwo’
The fishermen sit on a cross bar called a petta tied to a vertical pole planted into the coral reef. They hold the stilt with one hand while fishing with a rod or line using the other. They’re hoping to catch koraburuwa and small bolla, which are stored in a plastic bag tied around their waist or the pole. The poles are 3-4 m long and driven about half a metre into the reef, so the fishermen sit at a height of about 2 m.
They spend hours sitting on a thin plank, hoping to catch one or two fish about 5 cm-long, that they sell for about 2 cents each. The rough waves keep the big fish away, so they sometimes have to settle for te smallest catch. But it’s a small price to pay in order to preserve centuries-old traditions.
Stilt fishing is a dying art that is threatened by the very fact that it is so unobtrusive and therefore extremely picturesque: tourists visiting the area get attracted by the sight of the stilt fishermen, stay close by, bathe in the sea, in short, do all the things the fishermen have been trying to avoid for decades – namely disturb the fish.