The seller points to one of the boxes full of fish and shellfish that surround him. In a local accent he starts to shout figures. “50, 49, 48, 47...”. When he reaches 40, one of the women in the crowd calls out, “mine!”, and the man goes quiet. He approaches the woman, notes the sale down in his book and lets to the purchaser inspect and choose the goods. It is six in the morning and Vigo (Galicia) fish market is bustling with activity. This operation will be repeated until the sun is high in the sky; the smell of fish fills the place.
On the south-western coast of Galicia, Vigo is one of the most important fishing ports in Europe. Women such as the 72-year old Carmen Pedrido have been coming to the fish market practically every day of their lives since they were 11.
With the wisdom of over half a century of work behind her, as she buys the product Pedrido explains how the experienced buyers know that what they are taking away is quality. “For the nécoras (a kind of crustacean) you take it between two fingers and squeeze it”, she explains. “With octopus you have to look at its colour”. “Crabs have to be knocked and listened to”.
Divided into the two main areas of high tide and low tide fishing, the material comes from what is caught by the fishermen of Galicia themselves, and which they unload in Vigo (1st sale) and what comes from other ports (2nd sale) and is sold here. This has turned it into one of the economic driving forces behind the city’s enormous growth in the 20th-century and has made it one of the ports where most fish is sold for human consumption. It is not surprising that the European agency ensuring compliance with the fishing policy in the EU has its centre in Vigo.
Alongside experienced people such as Pedrido, there are newcomers like Quique Barios. A former salesperson, for a month and a half he has mainly been buying adult and baby cuttlefish (a very tasty kind of mollusc) for housewives. He carries a long hook with which he drags the platform on which he carries his boxes. “I don't dare pick shellfish”, he says fearfully, “it is a very large investment and I don't feel sure of getting it right”.
Behind Barios a seller begins to shout out figures. A seagull flies behind him and a transporter scares it away. Someone in the crowd surrounding him shouts “mine!” and inspects the fish. The sun is already up and the place is filled with the smell of the sea.