Bid and buy freshly caught fish from the comfort of your home or even better, your bed? Why not?
Online auctions for fish have been growing in popularity around the region, including Malaysia.
Though not exactly Tsukiji Market, the famous fish market in Tokyo where the seafood is auctioned in the wee hours of the market, these auctions are done through the internet can get just as chaotic.
Singapore and Australia have websites dedicated to these seafood auctions. The trend started in Taiwan and Malaysia has been catching up with it pretty quickly. Auctions are not uncommon in the fishing industry but it was traditionally between fishermen and the wholesalers’ right at the docks or warehouses.
In January 2019, more than 8,000 people logged in to a live Facebook fish auction in Penang to get their hands on many different species of fish including snappers and groupers.
The Star reported that each live session takes around four hours, with up to 80 bids per fish. Bidding prices tend to also be lower than the actual market price of the seafood.
These fish are then packed with ice in polystyrene boxes and shipped as far as Johor. Groupers are apparently the most popular besides snappers, prawns, salmon and sometimes, even lobsters.
A little down south from Penang lies Seremban and fishmongers there say the younger generation prefer to buy their seafood online rather than make their way to the wet markets.
This isn’t much of a surprise since they shop online for clothes, toiletries, groceries and more.
Just like in Penang, these fishmongers also host Facebook Live auctions for their prized catches.
Using Facebook Live allows the fishmongers to reach a lot of people easily and they do not need to be constantly yelling, like at markets, to get a customer’s attention.
During these live videos, sellers can be seen placing the fish into a large tray while talking into a camera. A clock next to them indicates the time left for the auction while bids are read out by the seller, as they are posted in the comments.
The highest bidder would then be contacted by the video’s admin, and payment (often via bank transfer) and delivery arrangements are made.
Often, the fish being auctioned are frozen immediately once they leave the boat to ensure freshness.
Turnover for these online auctioneers is also high as their products almost always are sold out.
An added benefit of online auctions is the removal of the many layers of middlemen, which is why these catches can be sold cheaper compared to brick and mortar shops.
Normally, the supply chain goes from fishermen to the wholesale market, to the fishmongers at smaller markets or restaurants, and only then only to the consumer.
This delay from boat to plate also compromises the freshness of the product.
Online auctioning does come with its own set of problems, but these problems exist even in face-to-face selling. There are times the highest bidder doesn’t pay.
Despite the fact that this trend is becoming more mainstream, there is still the need to shift the mindset of consumers before it can be truly successful.
As with all industries, the seafood industry has also come head to head with digital disruption. It’s time for those in the business to either sink or swims with the digital tide.
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