August 1- Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

Today we arrived at the Sydney Fish Market (SFM), the 3rd largest tourist attraction in Sydney, at 7a.m. We were split into two groups and given a tour and shown what goes on everyday.

Sydney Fish Market

The SFM is the 2nd largest fish market in the world, and only has 54 employees. The fish market is highly regulated by the commonwealth and state governments. 60% of the fish comes from New South Wales, 30% from the rest of Australia and 10% from New Zealand. This is one way they are staying sustainable, by not importing fish from all over the world. SFM also does have its own fishing port which only accounts for 5% of their fish. They have about 12 boats in their port. SFM works with Ocean Watch, is an organization that promotes a healthier environment. They work with the community and local farmers to help keep the water and wildlife healthy. They also work with fisherman on sustainable fishing practices. You can check out more about them at their website,

At the SFM the fish auction runs five days a week while the retail shops are open seven days a week. They begin setting up for each auction at 3p.m. the day before. At 2:30 a.m. a quality assurance team comes in and checks the temperatures of the fish, quality and that regulations are being met. At 4:30 a.m. the floor is open to buyers to go down and see what they want to buy. All crates are stacked by type of fish and provider. At 5:30 a.m. the auction starts and runs until everything is sold, usually around 8:30 – 9 a.m. When the auction is finished, everything is cleaned up and it starts all over again.

The auction floor with seafood divided up into bins

SFM runs a reverse auction, also known as a Dutch auction. The auctioneer starts the bid at what they think is a reasonable price and then the price goes down. One revolution around equals a dollar drop in price. Each buyer sits at a table with a keypad and when the price is where they want it they hit their bid button. The buyer then has 30 seconds to type in how many crates they want. Leftover crates are auctioned immediately after, starting the price at about 50 cents higher than the first buyer. With this new auction style they now sell around 1000 craters per hour as opposed to 300 crates per hour with the traditional auction.

Dutch Auction Clocks

SFM also has a live crustaceans area where they still hold a traditional voice auction. This is done because the buyers like a closer look at the crustaceans and the auctioneer can stay in practice. After purchasing the crustaceans the buyers are able to look through each box to make sure the animals are healthy. If they feel some are not, they are taken out and set aside. The boxes are then weighed again and the buyer is refunded the difference. Most of the non-healthy crustaceans are unfortunately thrown out but they are working toward finding a partner that will turn these leftovers into fertilizer.

Graded Tuna Fish

Graded Yellow Fin Tuna Fish


Tuna fish is graded everyday on the quality of the meat. This tuna is lined up, graded and ready to be sold. Most of them were B+ or B- fish.

We were done with the tour shortly after 8a.m. The rest of the day was for us to explore the city ourselves. A few of the students did the bridge climb at sunset and said it was amazing seeing everything lite up at night. Some others went to the Sydney Zoo and Aquarium. They also loved visiting these places.  Eleven of us took the ferry out to Manly beach and took a surfing lesson. The weather was beautiful and the water was awesome. It was a lot of fun being in the water and learning how to stand up on the board. All of us successfully got up on the board. We were also able to see whales jumping in the distance while sitting on our boards in the ocean. It was amazing.

The group after surfing lessons


Sydney Fish Market – Pre Departure

Behind the scenes tour

We will experience how the Dutch auction and buying systems work, tour the Sydney Seafood School, tour of the auction floor, viewing over 100 species, witness oyster shucking, find out about sashimi, live product and their retail arcade. The tour lasts about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Approximately 2800 crates of seafood are auctioned everyday. The seafood is sourced from individual fisherman, co-ops, fishing businesses and aquaculture farms in Australia, New Zealand, and the Asia – Pacific Region with over 100 species available to buyers.

The Sydney Fish Market

The Sydney fish market is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and second largest fish market in terms of variety. The Sydney Fish Market trades over 14,500 tons of seafood annually and employs approximately 54 staff to organize the weekly auction, and promote the market as the center of seafood excellence and home of the Sydney Seafood School. It hosts 6 seafood retailers, a bottle shop, fruit and veg market, bakery, sushi bar, restaurants, gift shop and a deli.

In 1945 the New South Wales government amended the Fisheries and Oyster Farms Act. This transferred the marketing of fish to the Chief Secretary’s Department. They establish a regulated market system and controlled the centralized market in Sydney until 1994. The Sydney Fish Market Pty Ltd was formed on October 28th 1994 when the New South Wales privatized the marketing of seafood. A computerized Dutch auction in October 1989 which dramatically changed the way fish was sold.

The Sydney Seafood School – opened 1989

As Australia’s leading cooking school the Sydney Seafood School has over 12,000 guests taking classes each year. It has been important to the Sydney residents in persuading them to eat more fish. The school was initially established to create a demand for the more unusual species and has slowly broadened to teach local, interstate, and overseas food-lovers how to cook a huge variety of cuisines.They also offer several seafood recipes on their website,, for you to try at home.


The fish market actively pursues and promotes strict environmentally sustainable practices at all levels of its business. It promotes the availability of and trade in, quality seafood that comes from ecologically sustainable wild fisheries and environmental best practice aquaculture. It supports scientific research into the sustainability of fisheries, while partnering with Ocean Watch Australia in its work with seafood suppliers to protect aquatic habitats and minimize the environmental impacts of seafood production. They also seek to minimize water run-off from the site, prevent pollution, and maximize the recycling of paper, plastic and fish waste.

Jackie Grow


6 responses to “August 1- Sydney Fish Market

  1. I had never been to a fish market before. It was a really great experience! we saw many types of fish and crustaceans. I also learned that most of the fish and chips we have ate are sharks! Our group saw two different types of sharks, one was called a carpet shark because it looked like a spoted carpet. We also were able to touch one of the sharks skin, it felt like a cat’s tounge but more sharp. After the fish market I joined the group that went surfing! It was an awesome experience! We were even able to see a whale from a distance! I would not say that we are pro surfers yet but we all caught a wave!

  2. Yeah i thought all of the fish we got to see were really cool! But i was little weirded out to know that the fish and chips had had were in fact sharks. I thought the Dutch system of auctioning was neat because it was faster than the typical form of auctioning typically used. I also thought it was interesting to learn that some fish that are not allowed too be fished or sold in Queensland but they could be in New South Whales, and vice versa. it just shows that protecting a species (such as the one not allowed to be caught or sold) requires cooperation from all areas, not just one.

  3. The fish market was really interesting and how the auctions work and how the buyers interact with the market. All the different types of fish were really cool. I am not sure if I will ever get my pants to stop smelling like fish though!

    • The Sydney fish market was very cool! As an economics major, it was my first time being in a real live market setting, with buyers and sellers in an auction setting. The dutch auction sytle definitely made sense considering the product being sold was a fresh one where quality and freshness matters. I found the bidding system very efficient and sensicle. Our tour guide told us that before the automated bidding system was put in place the sydney fish market sold only a quarter of what they sell now in a day. I though it was unique that the buyers are their own bosses, they seek clients and sell the clients on their service as a buyer. It would be tough breaking into the field as a buyer because you would need to be familiar with the industry and you also need to put up approximately 15K of your own money just to be considered as a buyer. We also learned signs to look for when scoping out the freshest fish. It was funny that there were not many things to look for, and a buyer could easily overlook undesirable traits of a fish that may be up to 2 weeks old. We also learned that the sydney fish market is the 2nd largest fish market in the world in terms of variety of sea food (Tokyo being number one). Spain has the second largest fish market in the world in terms of volume (how much fish moves through in a day). Seeing the varitey of fish and the process of purchasing was priceless. An experience I won’t soon forget.

  4. What i also thought was cool is that Ocean Watch worked with local fisherman to create a permanent anchor. Usually they use the standard anchor that drags across the groung but these new types are set in place so fisherman can go out to the same spots and just hook up to them. They were created so they didn’t kill the living material on the sea bed.

  5. The fish market was nothing like I’d ever seen before. All different kinds of fish for sale, most of which I had never even heard of before. I never knew tuna was such a huge fish! It was really interesting being able to watch the buyers bid on the fish and yell at the auctioneer when the starting prices weren’t to their liking. Surfing was so cool too! Such a great experience and the fact that we all stood up on the board made it even better.

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