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During my time at the Marine Research Centre of the Maldives as a research trainee, I was fortunate enough to go along on one of their reef-fish tagging expeditions to Baa Atoll in February of 2009.
We would go out with the fishermen on their fishing trips during which we would record the daily catch, tag specimens and retrieve tags from specimens which had been released earlier.
We would almost always leave in the early twilight hours and would often not return until it was nearly midnight; dropping off hundreds of kilos of fish to one of the many resorts in the atoll.
For me the most interesting part about all this was not how they catch tons of fish with their hands, instead of nets or rods, or even how they get paid next to nothing by greedy resort operators (more on that later in this article), it was how they would almost always start off the cycle with nothing.
They did not leave bait for the next day and they did not buy it.
Every morning they would head out to find a good reef and on the way there they would use trolling lines to catch that all important first fish. It would usually be one of the many predatory fish which lurk along the edges of the reef like a latti.
They usually only needed to catch one as their plan was much more elegant than simply slicing the fish into bait chunks.
Instead, they would grind it into a fine chum, which would then be placed inside a jar or similar waterproof container.