Annual search is on for sashimi


POSTED: Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beginning at midnight, employees at Tanioka's Seafoods and Catering in Waipahu were to begin cutting large blocks of ahi into thin slices. The pre-dawn work today is in anticipation of the morning arrival of scores of customers who ordered sashimi for New Year's.

“;This year, we were just blessed that there was a lot of fish,”; said general manager Justin Tanioka of the sashimi supply. “;We have enough for all our customers.”;

But not all fish markets are in the same boat. Some said they couldn't get as much fish as they wanted after federal officials banned fishing for bigeye tuna in the western and central Pacific starting in the last three days of the year. International agreements and federal regulations designed to prevent overfishing set the U.S. quota for bigeye tuna this year at 3,763 metric tons.

The quota will remain the same next year and in 2011.

The quota didn't appear to affect Tanioka's. The family-owned business brought in an adequate supply of bigeye as well as yellowfin tuna, which is not covered by the quota.

Sashimi prices are about the same as last year at $27.95 per pound for medium-grade ahi and $33.95 per pound for premium-grade ahi. Tanioka's set aside 500 pounds of ahi for advance orders that customers will pick up today, the store's busiest day of the year. Sashimi platters that cost $30 and $40 will be available today for walk-in customers.

Despite the tough economic times, many isle residents still pay the relatively high price for sashimi. It's a tradition for many families to eat the raw fish as the new year begins to bring good fortune.

Waipahu resident Nelson Sua, 37, a longtime Tanioka's customer, said he made sure he ordered sashimi at least a week before to ensure that he'll have a platter on the table for his family get-together. “;If you don't put in your order ahead of time, then you're out of luck,”; said Sua.

Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market in Palama said he didn't get as many bigeye tuna as he wanted but that the supply wasn't that bad. He said the quota didn't have a big impact this holiday season, but it could be a problem next year.

This year's ahi prices at the popular fish market—ranging from $14.95 to $29.95 per pound—are about the same as last year.

At Fort Ruger Market near Diamond Head, owner Brad Pulice noticed a drop of 25 percent to 30 percent in sashimi orders this year, attributing the decline to the weak economy.

He also said the quota did cause a shortage of ahi. The price of premium-grade yellowfin tuna at Fort Ruger is $29 per pound, a 15 percent increase from last year.