The cooled auction hall is packed with tons of freshly caught fish. Green and white fish crates are stacked with layers upon layers of fish. They have been here since three a clock this morning, when the fishing boats brought in the night’s catch from the North Sea and the Fjord; well-proportioned specimens of codfish, mackerel, plaice, garfish, lobsters, and shrimp have been drawn from the deep of the ocean – it’s a most impressive spectacle.
With some caffeine in the blood stream and the remains of sleep lingering in my eyes, I found my way to the fish auction early on a Monday morning. Therefore I got to experience up close what a fish auction is like in 2013. The night’s catch of 25 tons of fish is average; some days the boats bring in 100 tons and other days the number is as low as five tons. The eighteen tons of plaice dominate the space in the great hall, but the two tons of hake make a worthy competition. All crates have a little note with descriptions on them, saying when and where the contained fish have been caught; every bit of information is documented so that it can be traced down where fish come from in the event that someone in say France or the Netherlands should be so unlucky as to get food poisoning eating one of Hvide Sande’s fish.
At 7 am the auction starts. I am in a small room with five buyers who are sitting in front of computers, ready to begin. There are many more buyers than these five but most of them make their bids online. In Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, fish importers are ready for the online auction to begin; it’s a digitalized world we live in.
The mood is informal, even casual, at the fish auction. Bitter coffee is served, cigarettes lighted, and local gossip is in abundance. Meanwhile, the buyers’ phones are ringing, information is exchanged, and deals are planned. ‘Wednesday is a lousy day’, and ‘it’s not a good day for buying hake’ is uttered by the seasoned buyers. After about an hour the auction ends.
Back in the auction hall, forklifts are busy loading the fish crates onto trucks. Today most of the 18 tons of plaice are going to the Netherlands. Before midday all the fish have left the auction hall; the end of the line for them is in supermarket cold counters across Europe and on dishes in the restaurants and cafes in Hvide Sande.