Get ready to pay dearly for fresh ahi, or do without it.

Industry experts say the prized catch has been hard to reel in. And it’s not clear when the price will come down.

We always see the price of ahi spike toward the end of the year. Those in the industry say prices right now are even higher than that.

Wholesale buyers at the United Fishing Agency say most are experiencing sticker shock when bidding for fresh ahi.

“It’s higher than New Year’s right now,” said Guy Tamashiro, vice-president at Tamashiro Market.
“Higher than New Year’s?” KHON2 asked.
“Yeah it is, it’s crazy. It’s just supply and demand they just don’t have enough fish,” said Tamashiro.

He says the price of ahi is at least three times more than what he normally pays during this time of the year. He spoke to longline fishermen about it and they’re just not able to bring in nearly as much.

“He said whether you go north, south, east, west, they’re just not biting,” said Tamashiro.

At Nico’s Pier 38, the chef plans to take fresh ahi off the menu.

“We’re most likely gonna replace it with a salmon product. Salmon is gonna be cheaper than ahi so instead of ahi furikake it’s gonna be salmon furikake,” said Nico Chaize, chef and owner of Nico’s Pier 38.

Fishermen say there’s no clear explanation why there’s a shortage. The head of the Hawaii Longline Association says this happens every so often and he expects ahi to start biting again. But it’s hard to say when.

With ahi prices so high, some places have stopped using fresh ahi for poke and only use frozen fish. Nico’s still plans to use fresh ahi for poke, but the price is going up dramatically.

“If people really want it they’re gonna have to pay the price for it and if they don’t want it then we’re gonna need to figure something out,” said Chaize.

Tamashiro says he’s buying about one fourth of the amount of ahi he usually gets from the fish auction just so he can keep customers happy.

“So at least if they want ahi we have some. We may not have all the different grades, but we’ll have something for those customers that just want ahi,” said Tamashiro.

There’s plenty of other types of fish. Retailers say there’s a lot of aku coming in, so the price of that is lower than usual.