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How the Fish Auction Works

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

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.

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