About the Auction
The Honolulu Fish Auction is considered the anchor of the Hawaiian Islands Commercial Fishing Fleet and it is located on Pier 38. Honolulu’s Fish Auction is literally the only fish auction between Tokyo and Maine. In fact, it’s the only fresh tuna auction of its kind in the United States. On a Daily basis, the Fishing boats tie up and unload their catch in the early morning hours just a few feet from this modern, state-of-the-art facility.
“It’s the only fresh tuna auction of its kind in the United States.”
The United Fishing Agency started the Honolulu Fish Auction on August 5, 1952 and they still operate it today with a new facility that is located dockside on Pier 38. In other parts of the world, fishermen sell their fish to wholesalers who generally dictate prices. However, the United Fishing Agency came up with a better way to Auction fish 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 available fish. The Honolulu Auction has an open and competitive bidding environment of buyers, that rewards higher quality fish with higher prices. Supply, Demand and Quality market conditions produces fair pricing for the range of fish species and the grade of the fish. The Honolulu Fish Auction is based upon the famous Tokyo Fish and Seafood auction, where large fish and other species are sold individually, rather than by an entire boatload to a single wholesaler. The auctions platform provides a marketing service for fisherman and helps them with quality improvement initiatives and value added services, which assists the fisherman in achieving the best market driven prices for their catch. The Honolulu Fish Auction also guarantees that the fishermen are paid the same day for their catch, which no doubt has kept everyone working together for more than 50 years. A constant supply of fresh fish, every day, from the worlds most beautiful and clean ocean waters.
How it Works
The day starts at 1:00 am. Yes. 1:00am in the morning. That’s when the commercial boats start unloading. This happens (6) days a week and the fishing vessels are unloaded in their exact order of arrival to the Fish Auction docks. All of the Fish are weighed, and tagged with the vessel name, then displayed on pallets, kept clean and preserved in a temperature controlled (cold) room. Before any fish is even offered for sale on the auction floor, each fish is carefully inspected by the United Fishing Agency staff to ensure both “fish quality” and “safety”. Fish Buyers will always arrive before the auction begins to try and pre-inspect the day’s landings. By tradition, the Honolulu auctioneer will ring a brass bell at 5:30 am and the bidding begins.
“The auctioneer rings a brass bell at 5:30 am and the bidding begins.”
As mentioned above, the auction floor is covered with Hundreds of fish that are being displayed in rows of pallets. While the buyers re openly bidding against each other for value, the best prices and quality fish, the United Fishing Agency auctioneer is surrounded as he/ she moves move’s down the rows of fish. The majority of fish at the Honolulu Fish Auction are being sold individually. The competition and bidding continues until all of the fish are sold. Up to 100,000 pounds of fish can be auctioned in a single day. All “Buyers” of the fish are invoiced for their purchases by the United Fishing Agency. Once collected, the fishermen are then paid at the commencement of that day for their sold fish. Some of the fish being sold are packed at the auction facility, so they can be immediately shipped across the country or around the world. The rest of the fresh fish are picked up by the buyers for self-processing into dressed fish and fillets for their own restaurants or customers. 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, Hawaiian seafood companies and their discriminating customers continue to place a premium on genuine Hawaiian Seafood. The efficient sale of a wide range of fish species, is always controlled by the United Fishing Agency, and their system that allows for the size and quality to suit each special market niche. There is very little bycatch (fishery waste) because Hawaiian fishermen keep what they catch for both commercial markets and/or for personal consumption amongst family and friends.
Quality & Seafood Safety
“Quality control staff from the United Fishing Agency inspects every fish so seafood safety standards are met.” Auction buyers will then inspect each of the fish before the bidding bell rings. Hawaii’s fresh Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Swordfish, Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Spearfish, Mahimahi and deepwater bottomfish are among the highest quality available anywhere, and are appreciated (in high demand) in the most discriminating of global seafood markets. The Hawaiian Fishery and its commercial and game fishing industries pay strict attention to proper fish handling and quality control at sea and on shore because Hawaiian consumers know fish quality and they love to eat the fish raw. It is common fact that local Hawaiians consume more than 3X more fish than the U.S. national average per person.
The Honolulu Fish Auction and every Hawaiian fish or seafood selling company is inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yearly. The Honolulu Fish 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 both Hawaiian fishermen and the Seafood retailer, is what helps to make Hawaiian Seafood some of the safest seafood available.