Page 5 - MidWeek Kauai - August 3, 2022
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but we’ ve even
100,000 pounds a day around certain holidays like Christ- mas and New Year’s, just because there is that much demand.
oto is certainly no fish out of water when it comes to
done over
But much like the prover- bial little fish, Goto’s grand- father was not about to let him get away.
AUGUST 3, 2022
      Goto: Guiding An Agency, Fishing Industry Forward
 cess of getting fish from sea to store and, ultimately, onto tables. On every day of the week except Sunday, buyers representing the wholesale, retail and restaurant indus- tries descend upon Pier 38 and bid against one another on the value of each fish, all while Goto moves between pallet displays on the refrig- erated auction floor calling out prices. Typically, the public sale lasts three to four hours, but the event has been known to go on for longer.
O‘ahu stores, hotel chains and restaurants, flown to the outer islands and the mainland, and even exported to Japan, Cana- da and Europe, where they are turned into poke or a myriad of other beloved appetizers and main dishes.
from a handful of vendors to at times 20-plus vendors, and from the entire Hawaiian chain to the U.S. mainland, he was really the key person in developing all of that.”
     But wherever the fresh fish land, the people there are cer- tain to be happy with these lo- cally sourced, premium-fresh goods, according to Goto.
Although he grew up around the Honolulu Fish Auction — which moved to its second site at Kewalo Ba- sin in the late ’70s before set- tling into its current location at Pier 38 in 2004 — Goto was not hooked by the busi- ness early on. When he gradu- ated from Loyola Marymount University in 2007, his inten- tion was to take a year off “to get my bearings” before fol- lowing in the footsteps of his father, an attorney.
      “We basically run the auc- tion until the day’s allotment is done,” explains Goto. “We average between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds of fish a day,
“It’s really a sought-after commodity,” he says. “A lot of vendors will tell you that Hawai‘i’s seafood is the best in the world.”
auctioneering. Fact is, he’s a natural at it as a third-genera- tion operator of the local auc- tion, which made its debut on Aug. 5, 1952, at ‘A‘ala Park.
     “We’re really the only venue that promotes the dis- play-type system of palletiz- ing fish with ice, putting them onto our auction floor, cutting their tails and taking core sampling out of the interior — all so that our buyers can inspect every single fish, val- ue the product themselves and be willing to pay whatever the market value is,” he contin- ues, adding that the agency, which is inspected annually by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, employs strict protocols regarding fish handling at the auction and quality control at sea.
That also happens to be the same year that United Fishing Agency was established fol- lowing the merger of several longline fishing companies in the islands, all of them with roots in the flagline fishing method introduced by Japa- nese immigrants to Hawai‘i in the early 1900s. One of the operation’s central figures was his grandfather, Frank Kunio Goto, who served for decades as its general man- ager.
“I was going to apply for the William S. Richardson School of Law at UH-Mānoa, but he kind of kept coaxing me into taking a part-time po- sition at the agency,” recalls the ‘Iolani School alumnus. “He’d say, ‘Come work and earn some money.’”
After ringing the traditional brass bell at 5:30 a.m., Michael Goto, manager of the Honolulu Fish Auction, moves the bidding process along among competing seafood buyers. PHOTOS COURTESY UNITED FISHING AGENCY LTD.
like Goto to help it flourish. “This industry is pivotal to the state,” he says in clos- ing. “It’s what gets me up in the morning every day. It’s definitely not an easy life, but I take the responsibility seriously. It’s great that I can follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. I mean I could have gone my father’s way as well, but I discovered how important the industry is and all that it stands for, and it definitely made more sense
for me to be here.”
     Eventually, the constant baiting worked and Goto joined the agency, attracted by the challenge of bringing the business into the 21st century.
ofadealhewasinthecom- munity and the business as well. It all caught on with me and it made for an easy deci- sion to finally go full time.”
“But my most prestigious accolade was when President Obama made me a commis- sioner on the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which is essen- tially the U.N. of the Pacific Ocean as far as tuna man- agement is concerned,” says Goto proudly. “I’m still the U.S. commissioner for that.”
     At the conclusion of each public sale, seafood buyers are immediately invoiced on winning bids, and fishermen from the fleet’s 140 vessels who brought in the day’s catch are paid. Thereafter,
“He’s the one who really brought me into this industry, and he was the one who grew the market to where it is to- day,” says Goto of his grand- father, who died in 2019 at age 97. “He worked directly with (company founder) Mat- sujiro Otani in building both the fishing fleet and the mar- ket vending that we rely on. From the 12 boats they start- ed with to today’s 140 boats,
“I saw that it had a brand- new facility in Honolulu Har- bor, but (the operation) had still not been modernized,” he recalls. “When I came in, I started learning and I was like, ‘Yeah, I can really mod- ernize this place to the stan- dards of the day.’
Consequently, he’s man- aged to navigate his way up the company ladder in the years since, progressing from handling administra- tive duties to performing outreach work and serving as a board member with the Hawai‘i Longlines Associa- tion. Along the way, he’s even strengthened his voice within the industry by working on the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, which operates under the U.S. De- partment of Commerce and helps to manage fish stocks in the region.
Just as importantly, the 37-year-old workaholic plans to continue filling those vital roles of his at United Fishing Agency for the foreseeable future. And that’s a good thing considering how many fish lovers there are here in the islands and around the globe, and how much the fishery industry needs for- ward-thinking individuals
   E5 purchased fish are trucked to
“From then, the business grew on me and I got to spend more time with my grandfa- ther, learn from him, see how important he was and how big

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