Among popular Asian island destinations, one of the attractions, second to the beautiful beaches, is cheap yet delicious fresh fish. This is also true in the Maldives. Leading restaurants and eateries serve fresh fish dishes, using the fishes that were caught early in the morning of the same day from the country’s many atolls. Each day, fishermen drop their catch at the Male fish market from where they get distributed in local markets around the capital city.
The Maldives is one of the top tourist destinations in the world today. More than a thousand islands forming 27 atolls make up the Maldivian archipelago in the Indian Ocean near the tiny country of Sri Lanka. According to records, more than 500 thousand visitors come to the islands every year, making tourism the leading industry and that propels the country into international significance and continuous growth.
The Maldives is known as the “sinking country”. Eighty percent of its total land mass is less than 4 feet above sea level and the highest elevation is not more than 8 feet. This is why the government is worried that if global warming does not stop and the oceans continue to rise, the entire archipelago could be eaten up by the Indian Ocean in a few decades. But, for now, this much water creates beautiful atolls that are rich with colorful coral reefs and marine life.
Atoll, which was actually derived from the Maldivian word “atol”, means a circular or horseshoe-shaped coral reef island. The most popular atolls in the Maldives for their amazing dive sites are the Baa Atoll, Raa Atoll, Lhaviyani Atoll, Male Atoll and Seenu Atoll. The other islands and atolls that have not been designated by the Maldivian Government as resort-islands are where local fishermen make their daily catch. Tourists cannot go to these non-tourist islands.
Meanwhile, located in the island of Male, the capital city of Male is where the fish market is located. This is a tourist attraction because of its cultural and economic significance to the country. A tour here gives foreign visitors a glimpse into the daily life of the locals. The place is always crowded with fishermen, sellers and buyers, and therefore is a major commercial hub. The shops are always packed with delicious varieties of fish (the Maldives is blessed to be the home of over 2,000 different species of fish), but the most popular is tuna. The Maldives is a major exporter of tuna. Second to tourism, fishing is the most important industry in the country. Agriculture comes in a far third since there is very little land to cultivate.
Located along the beach front near Republic Square, the Male fish market is busiest during the afternoon when fishermen unload their dhonis (local wooden boats) and directly deliver their catch on to the shops. Tons of tuna are taken across the street to be sold on the tiled floors of the open-sided market. The fish market is washed and disinfected each day and kept clean, unlike other typical fish markets in South Asia.