Bounty from the sea | Sunday Observer

Bounty from the sea

22 December, 2019
For the freshest selection at the Lellama fish market
For the freshest selection at the Lellama fish market

From the most expensive seafood to the more reasonably priced every day fish, the wholesale market in ‘Lellama’ in Duwa has it all

Thanks to the comfortable Colombo-Katunayake Expressway drive, it took me only half an hour from Colombo to Negombo. My destination was ‘Lellama’ a fish market in Duwa, a small fishing island adjacent to Negombo where my camera focused on the fish landing centre that dot the coastline.

The fisherfolk fascinate me making me come down again and again. It is a photographer’s paradise. I could see here a totality of wide-ranging life, which I have not seen in other parts of the country. The charming seashores and the fishing community, the mangrove vegetation and markets, a variety of amazing religious activities as the town is pre-dominantly Roman Catholic and a number of churches, all this go to make Duwa. Hence the town’s appellation – Little Rome.

At Duwa, fishermen ride their vibrantly painted boats in the lagoon. A long walk took me to the Lellama where fishing boats with the day’s catch are moored to the jetty of the fish market. A little later, a visit to the interior of the market showed another slice of life. I saw fishermen bring their freshly caught fish harvest.

Obviously, the smell of fish reaches you much before you reach the fish market. It is spread across on both sides of the road in Duwa. In the early morning hours, the area is usually bustling with hundreds of fishermen unloading their boats. The freshest catch is sold straightaway to the wholesale buyers first thing in the morning, from 4 am. to 6 am. Once the wholesale deals are done and dusted, the market opens for the retail customers between 6 am. and 11 am.

The fish are neatly arranged depending on their size and the smaller ones kept in heaps. The costliest among these are the pomfret, salmon, jumbo prawn, shark, barracuda and seer fish. One can get red snapper, anchovy and sardines at a cheaper rate. Along with fish, one can also find mud crabs, squid and stingrays. One of the most attractive features I saw in the Lellama were the elderly fisherwomen who sell small quantities of fish ranging from living mud crabs to trenched sardinella. They mingle with the busting crowd of fishermen and buyers.

The entire process unfolds in a sequence similar to a drama. Fishermen unload the big fishes using ropes from the boats in a rhythmic pace and keep them on the ground in rows while the small fish fill the cane baskets. These are then taken to the stalls where they are displayed. Thereafter, buyers surround the stalls and bargaining takes place in high pitched volumes.

It is heartening to see most of the small vendors around the area too buying their daily stock here. A row of trucks, motor bicycles and foot bicycles are parked outside ready to deliver stocks to the markets, stalls and restaurants.

A visit to Lellama offers an amazing experience, and the opportunity to purchase some of the best and freshest seafood the tropical seas have to offer.