When people think of fish markets, their minds understandably wander to busy port cities such as Tokyo or Sydney, few people would ever imagine that Singapore has traditional fish markets too. There are two fishery ports in Singapore at Jurong and Senoko, which house wholesale fish markets where buyers can snap up seafood in bulk, and cheaply. Even if you are not a buyer, a visit offers a glimpse of the supply chain that ultimately makes it all tick for Singapore’s seafood scene.
Well, while you are asleep, the fast-paced action at a traditional fish market makes for a night’s fun and an eye-opener. I visited Senoko Fishery Port recently, located at the far end of Sembawang, in the north of Singapore, where land meets the Straits of Johor. My alarm was set for 1.00 a.m. and as I stumbled out of bed to make my way to arrive at peak hour of 2.00am. The Senoko Fishery Port, which houses more than 30 lots, are open daily from 2.00am to 6.00am, except on Mondays — this is why Singaporeans often avoid consuming seafood on Monday. On other days, more than 1,000 seafood retailers and buyers come to Senoko to stock up and many fresh fishes change hands each day.
As I entered into the complex, the first thing that struck me was that this is a wet market at its best. Fishy-smelling water sloshes around your feet, while half-dressed fish merchants tramp around in galoshes, stack baskets of squid and anchovies, and weigh shrimp with traditional scales. Shoals of fresh-caught fish are often just strewn along the ground, with baskets of prawns and other shellfish crowding the area and shaved ice spilling every which way. As I walked around photographing these early birds in their glory, I wished I could have tasted the beautiful tuna before me. The next few hours go by in a whirlwind of activity.
An overview of the Senoko Fish market.
A vendor prepares for the night ahead.
As more tubs make their way to the stall, customers begin lurking around.
Vendors are sorting out to sell the fish which are emptied out onto the floor from the tubs.
When a buyer found something that catches his eye, he brings it to the vendor for weighing. After some bargaining, the vendor scribbles down some figures in a long hardback notebook he is carrying and money changes hands. This is a cycle that repeats throughout the night, with some buyers returning periodically to check out the contents of new tubs.
Fish mongers from around Singapore come to Senoko Fishery Port for the fresh fish that they bring back to sell at their wet markets.
I feel very lucky to have gotten an insider’s peek into the inner workings of Senoko Fishery Port. I respect the people who wake up so early each day to provide food to the masses. I also appreciate the respect that these people show the animals they are working with. But last year, the authorities announced that Senoko Fishery Port would be closed by 2023 as patronage had fallen over the years. Given the popularity of the Tokyo and Sydney fish markets, I think it would be an incredible tourism initiative to one day make the market accessible to adventurous tourists. Food tourism is only growing, and I am pretty sure that people would be interested.
Click here to read my blog post on the other fshery port in Singapore at Jurong!