Munchies

It's All About the Tuna at this Fish Market in the Maldives

The fish market in Male, the uber-congested capital city of the Maldives, is full of groupers, sea bass, red snappers, dolphin fish, and barracuda—but the real draw is the fresh skipjack and yellowfin tuna.

by Brent Crane
Jul 4 2016, 6:00pm

Skipjack tuna is a popular sell at the Male fish market. All photos by the author.

The fish market in Male, the uber-congested capital city of the Maldives, is full of limbless cold-blooded vertebrates: groupers, sea bass, red snappers, dolphin fish, barracuda. But at the end of the day, it's all about the tuna.

Yellowfin and skipjack are two tuna species commonly caught in the Indian Ocean, and they are sold and filleted on the slippery-floored Male fish market. They are hooked not with the monstrous purse-seine nets used elsewhere in today's mega-exploitative, Jungle-esque international fishing industry, but by hook-and-pole method, where fishermen rely on brawn and good old-fashioned luck in hooking tuna; less Sinclair than Hemingway. With a dozen or more men, boats will stay out at sea for up to a month. At the market, tuna buyers barter with merchants, clutching fists of orange and green rufiyaa bills and hoping for a good deal. Both restauranteurs and regular consumers buy their tuna there. The biggest tuna catches are sold to the canneries, which dice and can the monster fish for export and local sale.

maldivestuna_tuna in boat

All photos by the author.

Yellowfin tuna stored in a floating purgatory between the fishing boats and the Male fish market.
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A former administrator for the Maldivian army, Hassan Sujaa, 35, a deckhand aboard the Laaza, has been on the job for three years. maldivestuna_P1060945 Deckhands aboard the Laaza fishing boat extract a yellowfin tuna from wet storage. maldivestuna_P1060971 The gloved hands of deckhand Sujaa. maldivestuna_P1060946 A deckhand from an anchored fishing boat carries a yellowfin tuna to sell at the Male fish market. maldivestuna_P1060847 Selling goes on from mid-morning into the late afternoon at the Male fish market. maldivestuna_P1060880 Travel agency owner Mohamed Naeem displays some skipjack tuna that his father picked out. The fish cost 40 rufiyaa per kilo, or about $2.50 USD. maldivestuna_P1060854 Some customers take a break from surveying inside the Male fish market. maldivestuna_P1060912 Abdul Samadu has been cutting fish at the Male fish market for 13 years. maldivestuna_P1060890 A skipjack tuna meets the knife. maldivestuna_P1060905 What fish parts are not taken by customers is sold to fishermen for bait. maldivestuna_P1060923 While tuna is the main draw of the Male fish market, there also other species, such as these bodiless red snapper. maldivestuna_P1060821 An expert fish cutter finishes dicing a tuna for a customer at the Male fish market. maldivestuna_P1060870 Tuna meat is used in all kinds of local dishes, commonly in "short eats," a selection of Maldivian snacks that are often a combination of dough, chilies, coconut, and tuna. maldivestuna_P1060852 Fishmonger and tuna boat deckhand Ibrahim Ali displays one of his day's catches, a yellowfin tuna.