Honolulu Fish Auction

Do you know where your sushi fish came from? There's a good chance that it came from the Hawaii fish auction.

Started in 1952, the Honolulu Fish Auction is the only live tuna auction in the U.S. The auction is a way for fisherman to get the best, fairest price for their fish by competitive bidding from wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants. The bidding process also prices according to market conditions of supply and demand as well as availability of the daily catch.

Around midnight the fishing boats arrive to start unloading and labeling their large fish. 

The fish are weighed and then labeled with tags that are color coded for each boat. The label has bar coding for easy scanning and also other fish details. They are then laid out onto pallets and covered with ice to keep them cold and the laid out on the auction floor a boat at a time, first arrived, first handled/auctioned.

The bidders enter through to a very chilly room. I think it's one of the few places in Hawaii where you will see Hawaiians bundled up in jackets and ski hats. You need to walk through pans of disinfectant to protect the inside of the auction room.
A guy goes down the line and cuts pieces off of the tails of each fish and lays it out on top. This is what the bidders look at to decide how much to bid. They are looking for color (darker red is best for ahi) and texture. You will see the bidders picking up pieces to feel them.

The auctioneer and the crowd goes down the line and the bidding takes place. After a person wins, he puts his bidder tag on top of the fish and the auctioneer writes the winning price and puts that down too. Men follow the bidding group and tag the pieces of paper to the the tail. Then they pull the pallet away for loading and shipping and new pallets of fish are brought in behind. So the line of pallets are constantly being taken away and replaced until all the boats' fish has been auctioned off. The fisherman are paid same day for their catches.

Can you tell the quality of the fish from this picture. The one in the middle was the poorest quality fish I saw. Sure enough, it got the lowest price when the bidders went by. I think it went for about $270 when the fish to the right went for $510.



It was an interesting process to watch and gives me a better appreciation for the sushi that I'll be eating.

For other Farm-to-Fork style stories like this one, click here: Farm-to-Fork