January 04, 2006

Early Morning Fish Market

Early Morning Fish Market, Bangladesh

Before the sun rises, before the moon has set, the men and women that farm the rivers and seas are starting the second part of their day. Men who have been out at sea or far down the rivers, working hard for days, are arriving in port with their catch.

Fish provide the main protein source for most of the people who live in Bangladesh, particularly along so many of the country's vast river networks.

In the first moments of daylight, the outdoor fish market is already packed. Thousands of people swarming -- a beehive of frenetic energy. Boats are unloaded by hand, the fish are loaded into trucks that bring the catch into the "hive." As the loaded-down trucks slowly ply through the crowds, their beds are filled with the fish in crushed ice, wicker baskets are busily filled-up by waiting coolies. These delivery boys carry the heavy loads throughout the market to the next intermediary who weigh the fish, scribbling the notes from each delivery into their ledgers. Moments later, the fish are piled back into the baskets and brought to other people who may prepare the fish, deliver the fish further afar, or to the salesmen and women who hawk it right there in the open air market to the general public who prefer to buy their animal meat as fresh and as close to the source as possible.
There are surges of energy which pass through the market like electricity. It's like the floor of the New York stock exchange. Everybody's calling out to someone else, shouting and pushing, trying to get from one place to another. Haggling is ubiquitous and tensions sometimes run high enough that fights break out over someone feeling they were taken advantage of. Many of the delivery boys are literally young children who carry the loads of fish on their heads. They are barefoot and have only a folded plastic bag that they pull over their heads to protect from the dripping fish and the sharp wicker of the baskets. They work tirelessly making a couple of taka with each delivery. Sadly, they are pushed around by many of the adults. It's not uncommon to see men carrying bamboo sticks which they use on the children as if they were cattle.

Other workers join the fishermen and spend hours working on the old wooden boats and meticulously repairing the nets for the next outing. Although it's still mid-morning, the sun's light is becoming intense to the touch and the men who have been up all night who have just come in with their catches are winding down, getting ready for their next sojourn into the open ocean.

The images.

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