Fish vends – No longer a fishy tale

New vends are redefining the way fish is sold in the fish loving city of Mangaluru. M Raghuram tell us more

The legendary ‘as filthy as a fish market’ saying is on its way out. Mangaluru- the coastal city which is known for its hot fish curries and fries is undergoing a total transformation on how it handles its fish sales. Once the preserve of a stinky, filthy market in the heart of the city, then in similar sub markets across the city, today it is sold in ambience that is similar to a lifestyle store at a mall!

Young entrepreneurs of the city have taken the traditional business of a few reserved public spaces to the next level with sterling air-conditioned interiors, and ample seating space in high end residential areas for the convenience of the customer. Here the fish is displayed in designer trays full of ice and stored in airtight nitrogen flushed containers to prevent odour. These outlets even provide home delivery of “dressed” and in some cases, cooked fish!

“There was a time when people used to come to the conventional market before they bathed. They found coming to fish market was such a dirty job that they felt like taking a bath after they visited it. While municipal fish markets still present the same picture as they havefor the last century, I feel many consumers wanted better places and ways to buy their fish. When I opened my AC outlet in the city, people laughed at me saying fish in my shop costs a bomb but when I displayed my rate card outside, their jaws dropped” said Mohammad Iqbal of Bikarnakatte in the city.

The Municipal fish markets have seen fewer footfalls ever since the new generation fish vendors started setting their modern units. Rasheed, another new generation fish vendor had this to say,“One of my new customers - an IT guy told me that he was a die-hard fish buff. He would walk gingerly on the slippery and unevenly paved floor, passing through the heaps of fish waste, to buy his favourite fish from the stock that was laid on a piece of plastic sheet on the floor compromising safety and hygiene all at once. But despite all the new generation hygiene systems that I have put together in my outlet, he expressed doubts about the quality of ice that I used to cover the fish and asked if the ice was produced with treated water?”. This is the kind of awareness that customers bring to my shop these days, Rasheed adds and asks the million dollar question, “how can we still sell fish in the conventional way”?.

Karnataka State Fisheries Development Corporation was the first to initiate new generation fish vending points in Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Mysuru and Shivamogga.

Experts at the Mangaluru College of fisheries affiliated to the Bidar based Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Science University say that in fact it makes perfect sense to vend fish in highly controlled conditions like closed and sterile rooms serviced with air conditioning and a blanket of ice under and over the displayed fish. They not only retain their freshness longer but also fetch a better price.

The National Fishery Development Board (NFDB) based in New Delhi has already recommended fresh fish vending in controlled conditions on micro, small, medium large and very large facilities with adequate credit backing, to six maritime state governments.

Mangaluru has been earmarked among the 21 cities around the coastal region of the country to get fully air conditioned main fish markets with ultra-modern storage, display and food safety measures. But with cities expanding horizontally rather than vertically, the idea of having a centralised market may not work - the travel time and the traffic hassles might restrict the fish eaters from taking time out to travel to the main market. Instead, smaller shops in every area operated by private individuals under price control mechanisms would be better, feel the consumers.

Strangely, the Mogaveera youth (belonging to the fishermen community) have not ventured into this lucrative modern business. Mangaluru Fish Vendor’s association member Sanjeeva Mendon says, “Most of our youth have moved on, they are educated and have gone into the white collared jobs, unmindful of the natural advantage they have in fish vending.”

Until recently, Mangalurean consumers preferred the fish off a dirty floor to the fish off an iced stainless steel rack for their curries. They believed it was fresh and would enhance the taste of their dishes and they were right. But the new generation vends too sell fresh fish, albeit in a more sterile environment. “According to what Prof. K M Shankar emeritus professor of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research told Karnataka Today, ”All kinds of fish get pathogen attacks right from the first hour after landing. However, the pathogen activity can be minimised, arrested or even can be completely circumvented if the catch is kept under a blanket of ice, making it ultra-safe for human consumption”.

The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) member Dr. Shyamsundar also told Karnataka Today that scientifically, the fish handling from landing to the plate has to be quick and definite. As per the guidelines of the FSSAI, fish handling should be monitored right from its landing and must be quickly covered in ice and maintained at a temperature of -50 to -60 degrees, which will not only preserve the freshness but also guard it against pathogen activity.”

Do the new safety and hygiene measures jack up the prices? - “No in fact many types of fish are cheaper by couple of tens of rupees, large fish like Seer, Pomfret, Mackerels, Jumbo Prawns, Kingfish and croakers are either on par with the conventional markets or marginally lesser, and when it comes to the comfort of buying, even if there is a marginal increase in the prices, it can be overlooked or ignored” say the consumers.

“Manufacturers of ice have also understood the need of the industry and have begun producing ice with safer water sources but they come at a premium”, say the new generation fish vendors.

A brand new fish market opens in Dubai

Dubai: Goodbye Deira Fish Market, hello Waterfront Market.

After almost 60 years of existence, the iconic Deira Fish Market closed its doors in June this year. The good news is that it’s been replaced by the brand new Waterfront Market near Hamriya Port.

The state-of-the-art facility, located on Al Khaleej Road, is spread over more than 100,000 square metres, and sells fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and meat (find a map locating the market’s exact spot here).

The market will also eventually be home to restaurants, cafes, shops and a hypermarket.

It is said the new market “represents a fusion of traditional Emirati souq and the multicultural spirit of the city in a modern purpose-built facility”, which is expected to serve as many as 500,000 visitors a month.

While the Deira Fish Market will always hold a sentimental place in the city’s heart, the new market is said to be a neater, cleaner food environment, with air-conditioning, odour control, covered parking facilities and stricter hygiene regulations.

Fish vendors from the old market have already shifted to the new location, while producers and meat traders have until the end of Ramadan to relocate.
The shift of the Deira Fish Market comes at a time when other world cities are contemplating the future of their charmingly rustic food markets, which are often major tourist attractions.

The legendary Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan is expected to relocate sometime this year, while Hong Kong’s wet markets are increasingly being replaced by more modern facilities.

Information courtesy: Siobhan Downes in

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