A Day at the Auction...Bidding for New Bedford Fish!
By: Marketing Manager Intern, UMass Dartmouth Kendall, Michaella Lesieur
It’s a bright and early start for the seafood auction as we took a trip ourselves to The New Bedford Seafood Auction (BASE) this summer. All the fish is sold through BASE. The auction starts at 6:00 a.m. so buyers must be up before the sun to inspect the product and be ready for the bidding. The computer-based auction allows buyers from around the country to bid on the product. The last bidder standing receives the winnings...that being the fish.
Fish is auctioned off in lots. Monkfish tails and red fish are some of the available species. These underutilized, yet abundant species go fast along with other selections such as cod, pollock, striped bass, flounder, yellowtail and more.
The reason it is called a display auction is because everything is on display, according to BASE Marketing Director, Cassie Canastra. The auction starts promptly at 6:00 a.m. and the time frame really depends on how much fish there is to be sold. However, the auction can last from half an hour to over an hour.
The amount of fish available for sale and the price per pound is always changing as well. According to the Executive Director of the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center, Laura Orleans, “This is very variable depending on factors such as weather, time of year, and quota/regulations. Prices fluctuate daily depending largely on supply and demand as well as quality of fish and reputation of boat. Depending on the species they range from 25 cents/lb. (pollock) to 7.98/lb. (halibut).”
You may be wondering who participates in these bids and that is in fact restaurants, processors, and wholesalers from all over the country. Much of this seafood is then shipped overseas. “The auction is done via computer with potential buyers bidding online from around the country and the globe. They have representatives who sometimes come to the auction facility to inspect (grade) the product and advise the buyers,” said Orleans. “Sometimes boat owners and/or captains will attend the auction to observe the process in real time.”
The fish is fresh and delivered right from the port. “The auction operates 24/7 offloading product which is stored in totes, in a large, refrigerated area. Generally, fish is auctioned within 24 hours of offloading,” said Orleans. “However, there is no auction on Saturday and Sunday so if product comes in after the auction on Friday morning it won’t be sold until Monday’s auction and the price will be lower.”
When looking to underutilized fish it is heading in the right direction. Canastra loves monkfish and could not rave about it more. “I like monk better than lobster,” said Canastra and states that it is her favorite fish to eat. Believe it or not a lot of the monkfish that they sell goes overseas, according Canastra, because Europeans love it.
Furthermore, Canastra said that cooking with monkfish fillets is simple and that the fish holds up well in sauce-based dishes. Likewise, she states that one should not be afraid to cook a whole fish, such as red fish or sea bass, where you can roast it in the oven.
With that being said, whether you are at an estate auction or fish auction there are bidders and buyers ready to open up their wallets to strike the goldmine.