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The Amazing Lives of the Bajau Laut - The Sea Nomads.

The Bajau Laut are people who live at sea and survive by fishing for food. They have lived for centuries, primarily in a tract of ocean next to the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They go on land only to trade or to fix their boats/houses. These unique people and the way they live was documented by a UK photographer named James Morgan.

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They live on handmade "lepa - lepa", boats which carry everything they need from food and water, to plants and cooking utensils.

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Fishing is the most important part of their lives as it's both the way they provide food for themselves, and how they gather goods to sell. They are skilled divers, reaching depths up to 100 feet to hunt for grouper, pearls and sea cucumbers.

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Since diving is a daily activity, many of the Bajau rupture their ear drums at an early age.

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The lives of the Bajau are hard and full of many dangers, so living up to an old age is very rare. Many are crippled or die from "the bends", the decompression sickness that occurs when people dive and resurface, before allowing their bodies to depressurize.

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As the years went by the Bajau have come to face a new danger, they have over - fished their habitat.

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The problem begun when soldiers during World War II introduced them to dynamite fishing. This destructive fishing technique took a big toll of the environment and the fish,

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The fish they don't eat they sell to Hong Kong fishing companies, mostly grouper and Napoleon wrasse fish.

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Since some fish are better sold alive, to keep them fresh, the Bajau have also taken up fishing with potassium cyanide. This chemical stuns the fish, which allows them to be sold alive, but it also severely damages the coral reefs.

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The cyanide was introduced to the Bajau by the Hong Kong fishing companies, creating what Morgan calls "a vicious cycle." The Bajau can't fish enough to pay off the price of the chemical sold to them.

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Once the fish are sold to the Hong Kong companies they inject them with steroids, even more chemicals, to keep them alive and big. The live fish are then sold to Asian restaurants where they are offered for a very high price.

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The lack of money and fish are not the only reasons that the Bajau are slowly losing their culture. Government programs have forced many Bajau to live on land as they constantly cross international borders, causing damage with their fishing.

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According to Morgan, when the current generation of Bajau die, there will be none left on the sea. In light of all the hardship they suffer, Bajau youth leave the boats in search of work in the cities as soon as they are old enough.

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Some hope for the Bajau may come from the World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation. They are doing their best to teach the Bajau about sustainability practices but it takes time for both the people to learn, and for nature to heal.

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Morgan did his part to help by publishing his story in the South China Morning Post, as Hong Kong is the main terminus of the Bajau's fish. The story had a big impact on the live fish trade and Morgen says he got hundreds of emails in response.

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Related Topics: photos, sea, fishing, asia, nomads, bajau
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