Behind the Scene Action at Perth Fish Auctions

The team at WAFIC and Yaz Mubarakai MLA had the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes to view all the competing action at the Canning Vale Perth Markets. For those of you who have yet to attend a fish auction, the most appropriate way to describe it is like a footy match – it’s full of excitement, there is a bit of rough and tumble and there is always someone that walks away without a win.

Yaz Mubarakai MLA, WAFIC Chair Katie Hodson-Thomas and CEO of WAFIC John Harrison at the Canning Vale Fish Market.

The private auctions are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7.30am onwards. Buyers can place a bid on a wide variety (20 +) of fresh Western Australian seafood such as Mullet, Whiting, Crimson Snapper, Blue Swimmer Crab and 3 to 4 species of Shark (just to name a few).

Auctioneer has to be very alert – sometimes buyers only nod or give eye contact to place a bid.

And believe us – the whole bidding process goes very fast – the auctioneer announces prices where bidders either call out, raise their hand or just nod to bid themselves. One needs to be nimble and know their fish otherwise they could be walking away without a win. From there the seafood is collected from the auction floor before it is whisked away to retail outlets and restaurants for consumers to enjoy fresh WA seafood.

There is an abundance fo seafood – 20+ species.

Geordie Buscombe, Auction Manager, has been working at Kailis for 35 years starting as a truck driver before moving through the different ranks.

“My first job was truck driving before I moved into sales and then oversaw processing. From there I began working at the fish markets… you wouldn’t believe it but that was 20 years ago. It’s a good family here.”

The Canning Vale fish markets first opened to the public in 1989 and that has stuck ever since – with each Saturday dedicated to the community of seafood lovers wanting to purchase fresh, local seafood.

“The private auctions start at 7.30am and run until 8.45am-9am while the Saturday market  open to the public start a little earlier at 6am and finish up around 10am.”

“Generally speaking, we go through 6 to 7 tonnes of fish per auction so up to 20 to 25 tonnes for the 3 auctions during week and another 5 tonnes sold on Saturdays. You can say we do go through a fair bit of fish!”

“You can expect all varieties of seafood here at the markets, from live Western Rock Lobster, Blue Swimmer Crabs, to Snapper and Threadfins,” he said.

The auction process is quick, with the auctioneers using a fast-talking style or chant – which can be described as an artform.

But the auctioneer isn’t the only one who moves quickly.

“You need to watch the buyers closely – they might just use their eyes because they don’t want the other person to know what they are doing. The process goes by very quickly – it is important for the buyer to know exactly what they want”, he said.

Buyers have to be quick – if they want to purchase a particular species.

Mr Buscombe said that the auctions work by staff selling on behalf of either a company or fishermen and taking a commission.

“We pay the fisher in a maximum of 7 days. The process is good as it is a guaranteed payment in a week – which often fishers don’t get to experience.”

But according to Mr Buscombe –  what makes the auctions so unique are the people that make up the buyers who come through the doors to purchase WA seafood to be sold in restaurants and retailers throughout the state.

“There are many different characters you meet who add their own sense of atmosphere to the place. A lot of buyers come here might not even purchase anything. They might attend for a chat with other people and then grab a coffee afterwards. The market become a social outing for them.”

Laughing, he said “The issue is – they keep talking when you’re trying to do the auction! But I wouldn’t have it any other way – it is always good fun!”

CEO of WAFIC John Harrison teaching young Dani everything there needs to know about the fish market.

Potential Buyer at the Private Fish Auctions.

The Canning Vale fish auctions are the only one in town and are open to the public on Saturday running from 7.30am daily. There is no limit to the amount of seafood purchased and it is cash transactions only. The fish market is located at the rear of the property on the west side of Market City.