By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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Videographer / director: Ahmed Mohamed Al Toqi
Producer: Crystal Chung, Ruby Coote
Editor: Jay Sohrabi
Photographer Ahmed Mohamed Al Toqi captured the series of breathtaking images in Dhofar during the sardine migration, after spending many early mornings with the fishermen.
Using several professional cameras, including a drone, Al Toqi photographed the teams of fishermen hard at work from up above and close-up as they haul thousands of fish from the sea, which are then sold to local markets and abroad.
Ahmed, 36, said: “The fishing operation begins by scanning the water with the captain boat and the assistant boat searching for shoals of sardines, and on the beach the trucks and other groups follow."
Once the sardines are spotted and located, an encircling net called “Thagiya” is thrown into the water by the captain boat and the other end of the net is given to the assistant boat.
Al Toqi, who took the most recent pictures in February 2017, said: "The captain then encircles and pushes the fish toward the inside of the net. The two ends of the nets are given to the teams on the beach who haul the net using their hands and use the help of a truck to hold the sardines.
“This hard effort takes a long time even when using the trucks to assist in pulling the nets. It is hard to imagine the process without the trucks.”
When the net is brought in, the catch is then put into smaller nets called “Shaya” and they are carried on the backs of carriers to be unloaded in the trucks.
Carriers can be adults or youngsters and tend to be Omanis, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis.
Sardines start their seasonal mating migration from the cooler water of the Indian Ocean off the coast of the Indian subcontinent to the African coast where the water is warmer. This occurs yearly between the months of April and June.
These sardines travel parallel to the warmer coastal waters of southern coast of the Sultanate of Oman from the east to the west passing by the coast of Dhofar.
Ahmed said: “In every fishing operation there are around 25 fishermen divided into different groups. On a good fishing day 40 tons of sardines could be landed and loaded on the trucks to be taken to the drying areas.
“Each truck carries around half a ton , which is valued at 90 Omani Riyal, around 230 US Dollars.”
For Ahmed, the friendship that he built with the fishermen was a key part of allowing him to photography freely.
He said: “When I receive a call from the fishermen that the conditions are right I start with them very early in the morning and spend the whole day with them as if I am one of them.
“That friendship gives me extra freedom to photograph everything. There are many angles and views to use when photographing sardine fishing and it all depends on how well you are accustomed with the fishing groups.
“They were amazed by my drone and the different high angles of view it covered, they were very happy to view their fishing nets from above."
To see more of Ahmed’s incredible photography, follow him on Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/ahmedaltoqi/