At the Communist port of the South Sea Hainan occupation island at the most Southern corner of China, a terrapin is breaking free of his nylon net in a desperate attempt to escape its certain gruesome (and no doubt delicious) death. He had unwound a few of the knots in the web so that he could put a strong left foot to claw his own body forward, falling off of the sales bench and inches away from the gutter. God knows how he could have survived in the oceans with most of a web around his body but we can worry about that later, for now victory was tantalizingly close…
“Your terrapin is getting away…”
My companion pointed to the sales lady in the seafood market. I felt awash with irritation at having lost my Finding Nemo moment but at the same time, ashamed that I was possibly batting for the wrong side. In this local fish market, it was as though we were in a team of humans battling against everything else from under the sea…
The stallholders in the market looked busy; half of people rushing to keep the specimens as fresh-looking and alive as possible and the other half trying to process and animals into further edible states. We were greeted with a chatty lady de-shelling her clams. These animals were her livelihood and are selling well today.
A couple works in-sync to descale and gut tiny whitebait.
A girl selling mollusks constantly plugs her steam-punk oxygenation systems to keep her shells alive for as long as possible.
A woman washes through her clearly dead fish in an attempt to resuscitate them.
As customers, we felt more like spectators of a hospital drama within the seafood market. Everything had an ER air (but saltier), split between the rescue and harvest of deceased organs.
There was an exhibiting quality about the place. The price of the items meant that they were displayed carefully as opposed to being stacked en-mass. Even at the coastal port of a tiny island, these items were a rare treat for the locals, a subtle cue of expressing an appreciation of the poor morsels and that died for this delicious delicacy.