There are several small scale fish markets scattered across Jaffna, and the one in Pannai is always a hub of activity.
The fish market here is far more interesting than its contemporaries elsewhere on the island. Maybe it’s because their catch seems to be much more exotic, maybe it’s because the fisheries industry is the lifeblood of post war Jaffna . A fisherman’s life is already a hard one, but for our Northern fishermen problems are compounded by the Indian trawler issue and the lack of adequately equipped fishing vessels as well as infrastructure etc. So when you step into a fish market in Jaffna, there’s a sense of palpable urgency.
The vendors seemed genuinely happy to show us the day’s catch and were fine with us just walking around . They were of all ages – from a couple of young boys who couldn’t have been older than ten years to elderly but very energetic grandmothers. They were not annoyed that we (rather obviously) were not interested in purchasing fish. There’s life and verve here, we liked the atmosphere and just being in the midst of all the hustle and bustle.
We would have stayed longer but we had the sneaking suspicion that we were just in the way and that maybe we were not really helping anyone by standing in the middle like a couple of dead weights, ogling at the fish and taking photos with the kind of enthusiasm paparazzi reserve for Madonna.
My friend and I visited around 10am but I hear the best time to visit is the early morning when the fresh catch comes in, (there’s also a great outdoor fish market on Beach Road around 7am).