Thursday, December 30, 2004

At the United Fishing Agency auction yesterday, buyers checked the quality of fishes before bidding on them.

Fish supply
exploding in time
for New Year’s

More than 100,000
pounds of fish is being
sold daily on Oahu

Fishermen have helped stock wholesalers and the seafood section of Oahu supermarkets just in time for customers seeking New Year sashimi.

Those offloading their catch at the United Fishing Agency yesterday said they have seen more than 100,000 pounds of fish a day being auctioned off since Monday.

"That's so much fish on the market," said Michael Lynch, owner and captain of the fishing vessel Tanya Rose. "A lot of it is big-eyed tuna (ahi)."

He added: "We caught about 8,000 pounds. ... We would have had more, but some false killer whales were following us and eating our fish."

Hideaki "Santa" Miyoshi, chef at Tokkuri-Tei restaurant, said that he is able to buy the same quality holiday fish at a nonholiday price.

"A $14-a-pound fish in October will cost about $20 a pound during the holidays," Miyoshi said, "but we're not seeing it this year. ... It's staying at $14.

"That's good for us and good for the customer."

Among those unloading the Tanya Rose for yesterday's fish auction were Vinzi Gregorio, left, holding an aku (skipjack tuna), and Carmilo Cariales, with an ahi (big-eyed tuna).

Ahi sashimi is a New Year's tradition in Hawaii, especially among Japanese families.

UFA General Manager Frank Goto said although fishermen usually bring in more fish for the holiday season, he has noticed a marked increase this year. Monday, the UFA auction saw 105,000 pounds of fish, while Tuesday brought in 150,000 pounds.

Usually, he sees about 60,000 pounds come in daily, spiking up to about 75,000 pounds during the holidays, Goto said.

"I've been here for 50-plus years, and I've never seen it go that high," he said. "If it's not a record, it's pretty close to it.

"That's a whole lot of fish."

Still, anyone wanting the best deal on quality ahi for their New Year's Eve parties should buy quickly, observers say.

"They started ordering New Year sashimi last week ... between 1- to 5-pound platters," said Brian Yamamoto, a manager at Yama's Fishmarket on Young Street.

"The prices, I think, will be between $18.95 to $22.95 (per pound for ahi). That's pretty good ... but if something goes wrong between now and Friday, then prices might change."

Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market said the real fish tale will be told over the next couple of days, as it gets closer to New Year's Eve. Though the supply is good now, Tamashiro said, people will hold off buying the coveted ruby-red blocks of ahi until the last minute to get the freshest catch.

Unfortunately, he said, waiting that long usually means customers have fewer choices. "Last year, the low-end stuff disappeared real quickly, leaving people with the middle- and high-end fish," Tamashiro said. "So people should remember that the least expensive stuff is the first to go.

"The prices could range between $8.95 to $29.95 per pound. ... It all depends on the quality."

Fish consumers are urged to start looking at prices now so that they can compare later and buy quickly before the New Year's rush.

"Main thing is, shop around," Goto said. "It's like anything else if you want a good deal."

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