Inside the Honolulu Fish Auction

A visit to the only tuna auction house in the United States
It’s 5 in the morning on an unusually humid Hawaiian morning. At Pier 38, Honolulu’s bustling fishing port, fishermen, chefs and buyers are gathered outside the United Fishing Agency in the dark blue light of pre-dawn. Some are eating a classic Hawaiian breakfast (Spam and eggs with rice from Styrofoam containers), others are drinking coffee from flasks; all are awaiting the clanging bell that announces the start of business. On a good day, almost 60,000 pounds of fish will be sold here, with prices of top-quality big-eye tuna often reaching $8 per pound or more. Tours are conducted, by reservation only, on select Saturday mornings from 6 to 7:30 am. The tour costs $25 for adults and $20 for children 8–12 years old.  Tours are not generally scheduled mid-December to mid-January. To make a reservation, click here.
©Isaac Arjonilla

Fishmongers and chefs bid on a variety of fresh catch at the Honolulu Fish Auction.


©Isaac Arjonilla

A slice of the fish's tail reveals color, fat content and meat quality.


©Isaac Arjonilla

A close-up look of the tails


©Isaac Arjonilla

On the day of the tour, an abundance of opah (commonly known as moonfish) was available.


©Isaac Arjonilla

An auctioneer offers a close-up look of a chunk of big-eye tuna.


©Isaac Arjonilla

An auctioneer controls the bidding process, which starts at 5:30 am.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Once the fish are sold, they are then transferred on to a pallet and picked up by the buyer.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Fresh big-eye tuna will be bound for local restaurants in addition to being shipped to the Mainland and other international destinations.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Workers dart in and out of the refrigerated auction floor, which is open for tours on certain Saturdays. 


©Isaac Arjonilla

On the auction floor, visitors will learn about how the fish are inspected to insure seafood safety and how a fish auction works.


©Isaac Arjonilla

A cross section of the tail is cut so buyers can determine the quality of the fish.


©Isaac Arjonilla

United Fishing Agency general manager Brooks Takenaka (pictured right) talks to one of the auctioneers.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Boats pull along dockside to unload fresh catches.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Fish continues to be offloaded as the auction continues inside.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Fish are covered in ice to maintain freshness.


©Isaac Arjonilla

Ice is shovled on top of the fish to maintain freshness.