The historic St. John’s fish market is set to be moved to a brand new facility out of Colombo soon, so we went to check it out before it goes. The market is called historic, but it’s really just a concrete space covered in fish blood and teeming with fishmongers hacking up carcasses and buyers treading gingerly in rolled up pants and rubber slippers. I smelled like fish for a day afterwards and my car still smells like fish. Smells like dried fish now, actually, the scent matures. I am all for history, but moving the facility to a more modern location might be good.
St. John’s is the Mecca for dead fish. Most try to make a pilgrimage here after they die. There are piles of shrimp, cuttlefish, bloodied shark carcasses, giant tuna, lobster and more. People move large blocks of ice from trucks packed with sawdust, they carry that and fish on their heads to the market and within the market, jostling and bargaining, setting the price as the fish hits the ground.
Restaurants and families usually buy the fish wholesale, either for large numbers or to freeze and keep over a longtime. You have to wake up early, like 5 or 6, but the prices are apparently a third of what they’d be at the stores. The downside is that you have to wake up early and smell like fish for the rest of the day.
The government and ADB have built a new Rs. 1,700 million fish market at Peliyagoda, just past the big Buddha junction leading to the Negombo Road. The fishmongers are now saying that they don’t want to move since the vegetable markets and other connected industries aren’t moving, but they’re probably have to. I personally don’t think it’s a bad idea as the new facility looks much more modern. For all its historicity, St. John’s fish market is still basically a concrete space covered with fish blood and guts. The industry could use some modernization.
There is a longer story in this Sunday’s Leader, written primarily by Halik. With interviews and facts even