I went to the Honolulu Fish Auction and really enjoyed it. When I arrived, I saw lines and lines of fish laid out, all marked with a bar code and their weight and the ship that caught them. At 5:30 AM, the auctioneer rang a bell and the auction was on. At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and then a tuna boat captain explained it all to me. The auctioneer starts at a set price, say $17 a pound. From there, he rapidly reduces the price per pound until someone claims the fish. The auctioneers talked VERY fast and it went “17, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10, 16, 90….”. So in the example, the fish sold for $16.90 a pound. Once the deal is done, the auctioneer puts a price per pound on the fish and the buyer puts a company card on the fish. Each fish is sold in maybe 10-15 seconds. The prices varied per pound for tuna from $9 to $16 based on quality. The auction house cuts samples out of each tail so the buyers can examine the fish for fatty content and quality. Some 200 pound tunas went for $3000! My fishing boat captain friend told me all the other fish (Monchong, Mahi, Opah, etc.) were basically byproduct of the Ahi catch. Once a fish was sold, workers from the auction house came by and scanned the fish, entered who bought it and how much it was. Then they removed the fish and the buyers had assistants standing by to put the recently purchased fish on ice in big containers and loaded in trucks. It was interesting watching the workings of this auction. It was great talking to the tuna boat captain and he shared some interesting things. It takes 6 days to get to the fishing ground and six days to get back so the “freshest” a fish could be was 6 days old; they are kept on ice on the boat.
Some things to make the visit better. The place was not easy to find. Go to the Pier 38 area (I used “Nico’s at Pier 38” for my GPS setting) at 5:15 AM and follow all the vehicles around back. Wear closed shoes (the buyers and workers all wear rubber boots; the floor is wet and the hose is on the entire time) and a jacket; the auction is in a refrigerated room. Don’t get in the way of the buyers with the auctioneer, but if you see someone that looks “in the know” in the next row of fish, strike up a conversation. Don’t get in the way of the workers as they move pallets of fish around. I went to Nico’s at Pier 38 for breakfast after; pretty good. You can get a Hawaiian breakfast (Loco Moco or Spam and eggs) or eggs and fresh fish!
The fish auction was very interesting and well worth getting up early for.
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