Honolulu Fish Auction
ABOUT THE AUCTION
The Honolulu Fish Auction is the anchor of the Commercial Fishing Village on Pier 38. It’s the only fish auction between Tokyo and Maine. In fact, it’s the only fresh tuna auction of its kind in the United States. Fishing boats tie up and unload their catch just a few feet from this modern, state-of-the-art facility.
The United Fishing Agency started the Honolulu Fish Auction on August 5, 1952. They still operate it today at the new facilities located dockside on Pier 38. In other parts of the world, fishermen sell their fish to wholesalers who generally dictate prices. The United Fishing Agency came up with a better way that allows the independent fishermen to sell their catch at a fair price and, in turn, enables auction buyers representing the wholesale, retail and restaurant sectors to get the freshest fish. Open competitive bidding rewards higher quality fish with higher prices. It also produces fair pricing for the range of fish species and quality based on market conditions supply and demand.
The Honolulu Fish Auction is based on the famous Tokyo auction, where large fish are sold individually rather than by the boatload to a wholesaler. The auction provides a marketing service for fisherman and helps them with quality improvement to get the best prices for their catch. The auction also makes certain that fishermen are paid the same day for their catch. It’s an innovative system that has kept everyone working together for more than 50 years. A system that insures fish lovers in Hawaii with a fresh, constant supply every day.
HOW IT WORKS
The day starts at 1:00 am. That’s when unloading begins, 6 days a week. The fishing vessels are unloaded in order of arrival. Fish are weighed, tagged with the vessel name, displayed on pallets, and kept clean and cold. Before being offered for sale, each fish is carefully inspected by the United Fishing Agency staff to ensure fish quality and safety. Buyers arrive before the auction begins to inspect the day’s landings. By tradition, the auctioneer rings a brass bell at 5:30 am and the bidding begins.
Hundreds of fish are displayed on pallets on the auction floor. The United Fishing Agency auctioneer moves down the rows of fish surrounded by buyers who openly bid against each other for value, the best prices and quality fish. The majority of fish are sold individually. This competition continues until all the fish are sold. Up to 100,000 pounds of fish can be auctioned in a day.
Buyers are invoiced for their purchases by United Fishing Agency and fishermen are paid that day for their fish. Some of the fish are packed at the auction facility and shipped across the country and around the world. The rest of the fresh fish are picked up by the buyers for processing into dressed fish and fillets. The fish are sold locally, or flown to the outer islands, the U.S. mainland, with some exported to Japan, Canada and Europe. Although more than 80% of the seafood in the U.S. market today is imported, Hawaii seafood companies and their discriminating customers continue to place a premium on genuine Hawaii Seafood.
The United Fishing Agency system allows for the efficient sale of the range of fish species, size and quality to suit each special market niche. There is very little bycatch (fishery waste) because Hawaii fishermen keep what they catch and all fish can find a market use.
QUALITY AND SEAFOOD SAFETY
The United Fishing Agency quality control staff inspects the fish so seafood safety standards are met. Auction buyers then inspect each fish before bidding.
Hawaii’s fresh bigeye tuna, swordfish, mahimahi and deepwater bottomfish are among the highest quality available anywhere and are appreciated in the most discriminating seafood markets.
The fishing industry pays strict attention to proper fish handling and quality control at sea and on shore because Hawaii consumers know fish quality and love to eat fish raw. We eat nearly 3 times the national average per person.
The Honolulu Fish Auction and Hawaii fish companies are inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yearly. The auction has been proactive in developing and implementing a science-based and effective seafood safety control program customized to the Hawaii fishery and its seafood products. This and the careful attention to proper fish handling from fishermen to retailers make Hawaii Seafood some of the safest seafood available.