Friday, June 11, 2010

You’re welcome, Lima!

At least thirty tons of fish if not more are headed your way and will be in various markets by 6:00am tomorrow, having completed a land journey of 470 miles through the night that began at 5:30pm this afternoon in Pimentel. We watched three trucks being loaded with ice and fish and suspect there were more both before we arrived and after we left.

It’s always enjoyable to watch the unloading process when fishing boats arrive off shore at Pimentel, San Jose or Santa Rosa. To someone unfamiliar with the process it looks chaotic, with all the manual labor involved, shouting and the crush of onlookers but there is a method and things move surprisingly fast. Fishermen at Pimentel have had to adapt to the closing of the pier where they had formerly docked and unloaded. The pier has been closed to all traffic and there is no indication as to when the planed reconstruction will begin.

Smaller boats are now used to transport the fish from the big boats directly to the beach, where each container is unloaded by hand. This added step and resultant additional labor needed may have resulted in a rise in price.

Once on the beach employees and/or family members of the boat owners inspect the fish and repack them in the containers to be weighed. About 90% of the people in these photos are simply observers. Some of them attempt to convince the workers to sell a few fish which always results in a firm no and sometimes leads to loud arguments.

Not all of the fish are destined for Lima. Some catches go to the processing plant in Chimbote. These fish will be sold locally. Others may be sold on the beach. In this case an anchored ship puts out the call that it will sell its cargo. Upon getting the word a fleet of reed boats (almost identical to those used by the Incas centuries ago) scrambles out to the boats; buy enough to fill their space, and return to shore to resell them to waiting customers, who will also resell the fish.

The reed boat owners prefer to sell their fish to one buyer and generally have no problem doing that, though it’s not difficult to buy just one or two for dinner. It’s amazing how little time elapses from the time they first launch their boats to get their fish until the moment they’re stacking them on the beach until the next time they’re needed.

We hope you Limeños enjoy your fresh fish. We’ll be enjoying them also, and perhaps even more because we paid less. : )


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