The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most diverse and unique creatures on the planet. They are also home to a small, but thriving human population. This fish market is located on Santa Cruz Island and it is a very popular spot for residents to buy fish, for animals to come and beg for scraps, and tourist who come to see it all come together.
Pelicans wait patiently on the rocks, boats, and pier, anxious to greet the fishermen who are returning with their morning catch. They know that the fish will be cut and cleaned at this market and that heads and tails are often left unattended for long enough that they can snatch a few. Their pleading eyes don't leave the action as the fish is sliced and divided up. Occasionally, a sympathetic worker might just fling a scrap in their direction.
Great blue herons in the Galapagos stand nearly 1.5m (four and a half feet) tall and have a wings span of almost 2.5m (seven feet). They are tall enough to see over the tables and almost look into the eyes of the fishermen who work here. They also wait patiently for a chance to grab something that falls on the ground or is left unguarded. Their long necks can propel their head towards a meal with lightning quick speed and a stray piece of fish won't ever complete a second bounce before being gobbled up.
Surprisingly, even the marine iguanas know this is a good place to hang out. Although their diet consists almost exclusively of algae that grows under water in the surf, they will eat an occasional piece of fish if they do not have to work hard to catch it. With massive claws and powerful jaws, this giant male lizard knows he has little to fear. The rapid head bobs he performs when he stops to look at the other animals is his dominance display as he tells them all that this is his domain and they will need to keep a respectful distance. He seems to receive no dispute over this.
The iguana greets the heron with a clear message and a little scrutiny before he moves on to the young sea lion sleeping under the table. The sea lion isn't worried about the lizard, although he watches curiously as it circles behind him. Neither want a confrontation and the baby sea lion knows he can simply stay and nap where he is. It will be the sea lion baby who has the best chance at a meal here in the market. More like dogs than wild animals, the sea lions are playful and curious, and they know that humans will do them no harm. THis baby will beg and stand up on his flippers to get his nose closer to the smells and the scraps. And he has captured the heart of the fisherman who works here. His pkitiful bark and big, brown eyes make him impossible to resist. He will almost always get a piece of skin or a piece of the entrails that are of no use to the fisherman.
The Galapagos Islands fish markets are a fascinating place to visit to experience the culture and the unavoidable interaction between humans and wildlife. These moments remind us all that everyone is simply looking for a way to fill their bellies each day.