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Ahi sellers prepare for New Year’s rush

Updated: 
December 31, 2013 - 9:20am

It’s New Year’s Eve, and for weeks local seafood distributors have been preparing for the flood of ahi connoisseurs looking to stock up for the holiday.

This year, KTA meat buyer Jeff Ikeda said the stock is looking good.

“I’ve seen the product this year; it looks very nice. I’m very satisfied with what the quality looks like,” he said.

On Monday, ahi poke sold for $14.97 a pound at KTA Puainako, while the fresh ahi fillet chunks sold for $13.99 a pound.

However, New Year’s Eve prices will most likely increase, and Ikeda predicts the “prices will be all over the place.”

“I can’t tell what the prices are going to be because it depends on what the cost of the fish will be that day. We buy ours completely fresh,” he said Monday.

Suisan Co. Ltd. sells fish to KTA Puainako, and although their focus is mainly wholesale, they’ll be selling sashimi fillets for around $18.99-$27 per pound. Small chunks of tuna will go for around $15.99 a pound.

Kyle Sumner, Suisan Co.’s wholesale fish manager, said New Year’s Eve is one of the most expensive times of the year to purchase ahi.

“The fishing is rough in December, but everybody wants to eat fish on Christmas and New Year’s so the prices go up,” he said.

However, Sumner said it’s money well spent for some of “the freshest fish on the island.”

“Everything that we sell to anyone around town is on island. That fish was swimming around yesterday afternoon,” he said Saturday while pointing toward one of the fish at their 93 Lihiwai St. location. “The fish is less than 24-hours old.”

Hilo Fish Co. Inc. said the fishing has been “ really good this year.”

“We’re in the $20 a pound range. It’s less than last year because we have more fish this year,” Jamiesen Batangan, operations fish buyer with Hilo Fish Company, Inc., said.

Solomon Kaholoa‘a, owner of Poke To Your Taste, purchases his ahi from Hilo Fish Co. This year he’s selling his ahi poke for $13 a pound or $7 for half a pound. Kaholoa‘a said he keeps his prices low because, to him, “it’s all about volume.”

Safeway’s prices for sashimi will be around $31.99 per pound. Ahi poke ranged from $11.99 a pound to $15.99 a pound on Monday.

Sack ‘N Save is selling various ahi poke blends for $11.99 a pound or $9.99 a pound when buying two pounds or more. The cost of sashimi fillets went for $23.99 a pound on Monday.

Steve Skipper, a Hamakua Coast resident, was checking out ahi prices at Sack ‘N Save on Monday. He’s been buying ahi poke since he moved to the Big Island 30 years ago.

“It’s a standard tradition here,” he said.

Skipper said he likes to purchase poke all year around, and said the prices for the fish on New Year’s Eve having been steadily increasing.

“I usually max out around $12 a pound for poke, especially since it used to be $9.99 a pound a year or so ago,” he said.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.