Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Octopus for sale at Paje, Zanzibar

One and a half US dollars. That’s the approximate beach price of a kilo of octopus in Zanzibar. I asked. The sale was done right on the blindingly white sandy shores of Paje, a district that is now crowded with tourist resorts and villas. I saw several fishermen with their prized catches of the day. Some chose to ignore the man with the bicycle and spring scale. Perhaps they have some other interested buyers in the village. I could not imagine them going to the big market in Stonetown which is about 50 kilometers away, not with just an octopus or two in tow.

Paje man with spear and octopus
fisherman with octopus, Paje, Zanzibar, Tanzania

haggling on the beach
fisherman haggling with the buyer at the beach of Paje

buyer weighing the octopus
buyer weighs the octopus using a handheld spring scale

octopus sale is sealed with a smile
the sale is sealed with a smile

buyer bagging the octopus
the buyer bags the octopus

Subsistence fishing is real in Zanzibar. With tidal surges of 3 meters, waters in the area are hospitable only a few hours certain day, half of the time in a month. Come full moon time, water recedes and the reef flat extends kilometers, allowing menfolk to fish with spears and nets. Otherwise, when the sea is high, men need boats which are capital-prohibitive.

the white sand expanse of Paje
the wide sandy expanse of Paje as seen from the shore

the beach, as seen from the waters
Paje, in another perspective, as seen from the reef

man dragging an octopus
a fisherman dragging his catch

man in the sea with spear
fisherman with spear

So others say that there’s always agriculture or city work but to a lot of these Zanzibaris, choices are slim. And the sea beckons.

man with octopus looking for a buyer
man hopping around the beach looking for the best price

going home- spear fisherman
end of the day: going home

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