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Price of fish going up for New Year's Eve

By Ryan Kalei Tsuji
Published On: Dec 28 2012 05:41:21 PM HST

Fishermen and consumers prepare to compete for the best fish at low prices.

HONOLULU -

Before the popular holiday staple of ahi arrives at local supermarkets, it all starts at the fish market.

Buyers flock to the market bright and early every morning and have turned the act of finding the perfect fish into a rare art form.

"We look for freshness, first of all, beginning with the redness of the tail cut looking at the eyes," said John Hernandez of John's Fresh Fish.  "The quality of the eyes and the freshness inside of the gills."

Hernandez has been working the fish cooler since the age of 16 and has seen the popularity of ahi expand beyond the waters of Hawaii.

"From L.A. to JFK from Toronto to Vancouver.  Pretty much I do a lot of exports," said Hernandez.  "This is our little aloha to the world.  For fresh fish.  People know that Hawaii tuna has a standard -- has a great standard."

But, the growing demand of ahi during this holiday season combined with catch limits has, once again, resulted in higher prices for consumers.

"Right now during the holiday season, it's going to be a bigger fight," said Guy Tamashiro of Tamashiro Market.  "More people are willing to pay so everyone going to be fighting harder.  So, we have to pay more too."

"I think people need to keep in mind today when we start to be concerned about sustainability and seafood safety, that starts to put a premium on fish," said Brooks Takenaka, the assistant general manager at the United Fishing Agency.

Competition amongst buyers also tends to heat up in this usually cool setting.

"There have been times in the past that we've had to stop fights.  So, it's a very competitive reality," said Takenaka.

"Unfortunately, the very affordable ones a lot of times disappear very quickly because you can only get so much of those because everyone's fighting for the fish," said Tamashiro.

The fish market is open to the public Monday through Saturday.  But during this holiday season, it will be open seven days a week.

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