Pelican Bay: Swatting off the pterodactyls

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Buñuel would have whipped his camera out to start filming in no time at all, had he ever witnessed the spectacle that takes place at Pelican Bay: it’s surrealism come to life. The spot should top anyone’s list of the World’s Funkiest Fish Markets.

Not for size (for it’s also probably one of the world’s smallest fish markets), but because around, under and on top of the 2-by-4 meter cement structure, sea lions and their pups, well over a dozen pelicans (perhaps because one’s in Galápagos, or perhaps because one gets so close to them, they always end up reminding me of a gigantic, ‘de-evolved’ bird), and the rarest gull in the world, the Galapagos Lava Gull, hang about trying to nab a free morsel as the market salesmen fillet fresh seafood caught by local fishermen.

The men have to constantly swat the animals out of the way (which they actually do with flyswatters, which adds to the absurdity of the scene). But the animal menagerie keeps on coming back for another try. Every so often, one of the pirates will get away with stealing an entire fish. Most, of course, only get the bony remnants. The inedible pieces are cut away and sent flying into the sea below, where reef sharks also await, sometimes causing a tumult in the water.

Located just across the street from the restaurants and galleries of Avenida Charles Darwin, the sight transcends realism as a pelican waddles off into town only to be dissuaded back by a passing cyclist. Standing at arm’s length from these animals and observing their uninhibited relationship with the locals is a sight difficult to forget. In the evening (every day except Sunday), the market sets up tables and serves a feast from the unsold fresh fish. The Municipality also organizes street folk dance and music performances on Saturday evenings.

Photo: Jorge Vinueza

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