Hong Kong people are gaining a global reputation as lovers of fresh seafood. We are now Asia’s second biggest consumers of seafood, and number eight in the world—each of us devouring an average of 65.5 kg every year, which is more than three times the global figure. We buy over 11,000 tonnes of salmon alone in 2017 and we take up 1% of Norway’s entire export sales.
But it’s the growth in consumption of Japanese seafood that is most obvious. Every side street now seems to have at least one Japanese restaurant. And we are fussy eaters: we demand the freshest possible seafood. That’s why there’s a whole industry behind the fast–growing business of giving us exactly what we want…
Of course, it all begins with the fishermen, who catch fish daily throughout Japan. The boats working closest to the main wholesale markets deliver direct to the quay, while fish caught further away is trucked to market, or even flown. Daily bidding for the fish starts an hour or two after arrival, at around 3am, and carries on for 2–3 hours.
Broker Saeba Kenshin, of Ryukou Co. Ltd, is there every day, buying seafood for his customers in Hong Kong. Says Saeba: “The seafood comes from all over Japan, except the waters near Fukushima and Chiba. Hamachi, Shimaaji, Kanpachi and Tai come from Kumamoto and Nagasaki; Maguro from Nagasaki, Kagoshima or Okinawa; and Kinki, Kinmedai, Tai, Taichiuo, Buri, Hirame, Kue, Aji and Saba from Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and the Chūgoku region.”
Packing starts at around 5am, and the fish is then trucked to Fukuoka Airport to catch flights to Hong Kong, usually arriving around 4pm. “Mostly we can deliver within 24 hours of catching, for seafood from the waters near Fukuoka.” But, he adds, adverse weather conditions can disrupt this tight schedule.