At 7 a.m., the sun begins to rise between the commercial towers of Canary Wharf in London's East End, casting an inky glow over Billingsgate Fish Market, which lies just beneath. The market's porters have been here for five hours already. In white overcoats and boots, they look like ghosts in the gloom, unloading fish and setting up stalls.
Billingsgate is the oldest fish market in Britain. For over 300 years, self-employed market porters and cart minders have been the veins of the market, ferrying fish by hand from truck to stall, from stall to buyer, and minding the vehicles of customers. But times are changing. Now the city is closing in around the market, and the shiny façades of Bank of America, Citigroup, and Barclays loom overhead. Skeletal construction cranes multiply behind its yellow roof. In 10 years, Billingsgate's land value has risen from about $20 million to $1.45 billion. At the end of April, the City of London corporation will revoke the by-laws and licences that allow market porters and cart minders to operate, claiming that they're out of date.
Above, fish porters ferry crates of iced fish from the market stalls to buyers in the loading area as dawn breaks.