Living From the Sea in the Irrawaddy Delta

Women unload a fishing net from a boat. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

KADONKANI, Irrawaddy Division — As soon as I set foot on the shore, the fishy air filled my nostrils.

After a five-hour boat ride from Bogale, a town in Irrawaddy Division, I found myself standing on the shore of one the biggest fishing villages in the delta. Though it is a seaside village, the beach has no white sand, and the water is murky as it is located at the outer most tip of the delta. Around me, people were busy unloading their catch of the day from fishing boats under the evening sun.

Situated where the Irrawaddy River meets the Andaman Sea, Kadonkani is a big village where most of the residents make their living from the sea. They catch fish, shrimp and clams. From their catch, they make dried fish and ngapi—a fishy paste—while some supply fish to the divisional capital of Pathein, and to Rangoon.

Most of the villagers are poor ethnic Burmans. They work for eight months a year. When the rains come, most of them stay at home—out of a job—and live on their savings, while some people do odd-jobs.

“How could we venture out to sea in the rainy season? It’s very dangerous,” a fisherman explained to me.

“The beach doesn’t come alive until the cold season is in when the skies are blue and we resume our fishing.”

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