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Maldives: Malé Fish Market

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Malé Fish Market | Maldives | Asia

[Visited: September 2013]

Being an atoll nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean, fish is an important commodity of the Maldives. It is not surprising, therefore, that Malé has a separate fish market. It is a bright, sunny day when I approach it. I did not have to look for the market: a guy steps off a boat with two yellowfin tuna hanging from his hands, by following him, I walk straight into the market building. I expect a big building, with many stalls; instead, the fish are placed on the floor. I see a guy squatting, and arranging small fish in neat rows. People are standing around him, considering a buy, or just comparing quality. A little further on, more is going on: here, a stack of yellowfin tuna lies on the tiled floor.

Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Yellowfin tuna being cleaned at the fish market

The big fish are traded quickly, and often dragged to the counters on the side of the market. Here, a row of men are constantly cleaning fish. I stand there for a while, watching them. They know what they are doing: apparently without hesitation, or even thinking about it, they cut off the fins, cut off the head, get rid of the intestines, skin the remains; in a matter of minutes, a big tuna has been transformed into a collection of clean chunks of meat. Someone waiting for his tuna to be cleaned explains that he buys for hotels and safari boats. He adds that the market is pretty bad because of the upcoming elections: less people go out fishing, so there is less supply, meaning prices have gone up quite a lot. Indeed, I had expected to see much more fish, and more people, at the market.

Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Neatly aligned fish lying on the floor of the fish market of Malé

The fish market of Malé runs all day, and supply is continuous. When I come back to the trading floor, a blue marlin has arrived, together with some other big fish I cannot identify. There seems to be not much haggling going on, as far as I can see. I take a short walk outside, where I see more tuna being carried in, as well as guys in small boats selling their fish directly to people on the quay. The boats have big boxes of ice to keep the fish fresh. Inside again, the blue marlin is still lying on the floor, and some more fish have been added. One guy frequently sprinkles water over the fish that are exposed on the tiles, to keep them in a good condition. When I have fish for lunch later on, I know where my fish has probably come from.

Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): The fish market of Malé seen from above
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Buying fish directly from a small boat in the harbour of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Weighing a tuna on a fishing boat in the harbour of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Arranging fish at the fish market of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): The typical pointy beak of the blue marlin at the fish market of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Yellowfin tuna at the fish market of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Men cleaning fish at the market of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Fish exposed at the fish market of Malé
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Customers waiting for men cleaning their fish at the fish market
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Harbour with fishing boats where the fresh fish is brought to the doorstep of the market
Picture of Malé Fish Market (Maldives): Maldivian riding away with fresh fish on his motorbike

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