As a fishmonger, Samuel wakes up at 1.00am every morning to get fresh fish from the port. He had worked in accounting for 12 years, but the migraines made it clear he needed a break from the office, so he decided to run a stall at the market.
I asked about the impact of overfishing, but he said that’s not the biggest problem. The problem is when fishermen throw dynamite into the ocean to make fish float to the top. This method (called blast fishing) doesn’t just kill fish, it destroys the entire ecosystem such as coral reefs around the Indonesian islands. He tries not to buy from wholesalers who transact with these fishermen; seller care about their reputation, so his stance helps to sends a message. How does he know whether they used dynamite? Sam says it’s easy: when you cut open the fish, you will notice that the tissue and skeleton is disintegrated.
Sam’s market stall is a far cry from the air-conditioned office where he used to work, but he enjoys the creative autonomy of managing his own business and constantly learning something new about the trade.
The market is not without politics, though. One of the more exasperating situations, Sam explains, is when a neighbouring vendor deliberately calls out lower prices to his customers while they’re at his stall to hook them over.
Meanwhile, the magic of collaboration brings them strength: every now and then, Sam allies with fishmongers to help them buy specific types of fish that they want (since they go to different ports, and each port offers different species). This way, they can each sell more variety. The official term for this is “coopetition” – to cooperate while competing.
For doing business, Sam’s advice is to “do the right thing, and do the thing right.”
Shopkeeper Stories is a photographic documentary of small business owners with their trades around the world, sharing their insights and stories. Join this journey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. See you there!