A traditionally, fully manual beach seine group in Kalpitiya, western Sri Lanka, hauls in a large school of anchovies.

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Sri Lanka's Vanishing Beach Seine Traditions

Kang-Chun Cheng | Sri Lanka

Organization: Freelance

Along Sri Lanka's stunning coasts and lagoons, fishermen are immersed in their work of preparing boats, hauling in nets, and cleaning their catches. Beach seine, a technique where a team of fishermen use a net to surround a school of fish, is one of the oldest styles of fishing in the country. This traditional work is unpredictable and risky––heavily dependent on weather conditions and fluctuating market demand, challenges most recently compounded by the nation’s worst economic crisis to date. 

Described by researchers as the nation's 'single most important form of fishing,' beach seine is communal by nature and rooted in Indigenous knowledge. But there's also an interesting religious thread running through these fishers’ identities–-along the western coast (where I was, from Kalpitiya down to Mirissa), many fishing communities are Christian in a majority Buddhist country.


Fishermen have long been considered as belonging to lower castes. Part of the reason stems from how their work violates a main tenant of Buddhism: thou shalt not kill. Christianity fromPortuguese and British missionaries offered the perfect solution.

KC 鄭康君 (b. 1995) is a Taiwanese American photojournalist covering how climate change exacerbates insecurity, cultural continuity within Indigenous communities, foreign aid, and outdoor adventure. She has been based in Nairobi for 3 years and uses photography as a tool for storytelling. She has reported from Uganda, Egypt, Norway, Finland, the US, Sri Lanka, India, the Western Sahara, and Morocco.

In her work, KC examines themes of belonging and nostalgia against our shifting relationships with the natural world. As overwhelming as both manmade and natural catastrophes may seem, it’s the tenderness of human connections that makes survival possible.



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