At 1 a.m., six days a week, when most of us are sound asleep, Honolulu’s Commercial Fishing Village’s Pier 38 is abuzz with activity. That’s because fishing vessels are being unloaded for the auction that begins at 5:30 a.m., when buyers and sellers meet to trade fresh bigeye tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi, and deepwater bottomfish, which mark Hawaii’s catch as some of the most desirable in the world.
The United Fishing Agency, which oversees fish handling and quality control, launched the Honolulu Fish Auction in 1952, based on the Tokyo auction model, where independent fishermen sell their large fish individually. It’s a boon to fishermen, who, when not compelled to sell their fish by the boatload to wholesalers, are assured better prices. And it’s the only auction of its kind in the United States.
Fish are displayed on pallets on the auction floor, and the auctioneer moves down the rows with buyers, who bid as they go. Visitors who want an insider’s view of the action can take a guided tour of the market on Saturday mornings starting at 6. For reservations and to learn more about the tour, click here.
After the auction is done each day, the fish are distributed locally and to the other islands or flown to the mainland U.S., to Japan, Canada, and Europe. It ensures a fresh supply of some of the sea’s best to fish lovers all over the world.