19/02/2018 13:21 SAST | Updated 19/02/2018 13:21 SAST

This Nomadic Community Lived All Its Life At Sea. But The Future Is Threatened

They only leave their boats and return to the mainland to exchange or sell their products.

The Bajau Laut people, marine nomads, survive fishing.
Montagem/Getty Images/James Morgan
The Bajau Laut people, marine nomads, survive fishing.

For some of us, a house near the sea is a dream of consumption to be achieved. But for the Bajau Laut community this is simply part of who they are. The people occupy the island of Borneo, divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

The marine nomads lived practically all their life in the ocean, with houses constructed in the middle of the sea and having as main sustenance the fishing.

They only leave their boats and return to the mainland to exchange or sell their products.

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Meet the people Bajau Laut, the marine nomads.

Previously, they have lived on many of the islands of the Sulu archipelago in the Philippines, but many migrated to neighboring Sabah in Borneo due to conflict between Muslim groups and the Philippine government.

They have no citizenship and therefore have no rights. They are not officially recognized by the Malaysian government. Families do not have access to public policies, such as the health service, nor do children have access to local education.

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The Bajau Laut people have their lives threatened with destructive fishing practices.

The Bajau traditionally live in craft boats, the "lepa-lepa", bringing everything they need to the sea, including cooking utensils, kerosene lamps, food, water and even plants.

For a long time, it was thought that the community might be disappearing due to the decline in trade and food stocks.

In recent years, an increasing number of Bajau Laut are returning to the continent in search of work - a movement that can decree the end of this way of life.

Mawardibahar via Getty Images
The Bajau people live on stilts in the middle of the sea.

British photographer James Morgan began documenting the life of the Bajau community on a visit in 2014. In an interview with Business Insider , published this month, Morgan stated that people's knowledge about the ocean was so deep that they were able to feel the tsunami before it happens and thus better prepare for the impacts.

The Bajau are hunter-gatherers and live primarily from underwater fishing. They are professional divers and can swim depths up to 100 feet (30 meters) in search of fish and pearls.

However, destructive fishing practices by large fishing vessels are increasingly common in the region. The use of fertilizer bombs and potassium cyanide destroy not only the reefs but also impact countless lives.

For Morgan, the Bajau reveal a complex relationship with the ocean, considered by them a multifaceted and living entity.

"There are spirits in currents and tides, in coral reefs and mangroves. My point of interest is the potential to fit Bajau's unique understanding of the ocean with broader marine conservation strategies, in order to facilitate conservation, rather to destroy, their culture and the spectacular marine environments that they have called home for centuries, "defends the photographer in testimonial on his website .

Here are some pictures of the Bajau people:

For some young Bajau who are born and live on boats, the ocean is still their favorite backyard. And while they are absorbing conflicting messages from their communities, which at the same time refrain from plunging into the ocean and continue to destroy their reefs, I still believe they can play a crucial role in developing good marine conservation practices in the western seas . Here, Enal plays with his pet shark.

To avoid a painful bite, Imran will catch this fish by placing his thumb and forefinger on his eyebrows, and once he is blindfolded, he will take him to the boat.

Jatmin comes back with an octopus. The tools used by the Bajau are useful for catching the animals in any hole in which they hide.