The Auction

Shetland Seafood Auctions (SSA) operates the largest computerised “Dutch auction” system in the UK selling approximately 60 tonnes of fresh white fish every day.

How the auction works: 

Beginning the previous day, boats detail their catch to fishing agents, LHD Ltd, who then enter the details on SSA Landings. This gives buyers up to 18 hours advance notice of what will be available on the following day’s market. 

Fish are either landed, or transported from other Shetland piers, to the fish markets in Lerwick or Scalloway.  LHD prepare a market plan that advises the boats which section of the market they must layout their boxes for sale.  Fish boxes typically weigh 30kg to 45kg depending on the species landed.  The boats generally land their fish at the markets from early afternoon until just after midnight.

The SSA team size grade certain high value species and ensure the box weight is accurate.  Quite often it is not possible for the boats to size grade all their species onboard.  Size grading provides buyers with tighter grades so they can target the sizes and weight of fish that their customers want.  As a regulatory requirement, the SSA team also sample weigh 6 per cent of boxes landed for all species.  This information is also useful for buyers to give an indication of average fish weight.  The SSA team must finish this work by 6.00am.

The fish are inspected by a qualified local third party, SSQC Ltd, to monitor the fish against local/national industry standards.  Auctioneers catalogue each boat’s fish by inputting the details to a handheld device and wirelessly transferring the completed catalogue to the main database, which the buyers can then view online.

Registered local buyers can view the fish available for auction from 6.00am and once they have received the catalogue by 7.00am, they contact over 200 companies in the UK, France and Spain to plan their purchasing.  SSA also has remote buyers who place bids on the fish from their own offices from various locations around the U.K. and abroad.  They too can view the catalogue from 7.00am.

The auction begins at 8.00am every weekday.  The bidding “clock” displays a description of each lot on offer, starting at a higher price per kilo than each lot is expected to receive and dropping at 1p per kg until a buyer stops it by entering a bid.  The buyer’s name appears on the clock to confirm the price and the quantity of the transaction.

After each purchase, tickets are printed out stating the details of the buyer and the purchase.  SSA team allocate the purchase ticket and buyers labels to the correct boxes on the market.  The auction and the ticket allocation continues until all the fish have been purchased and the auction ends.  How long the auction takes depends on the number of boats and boxes landed.

All boxes are consolidated and put onto pallets, shrink wrapped and loaded into chilled road containers for transportation to the mainland, collected for local processing or the local market.  Fish for UK mainland or continental destinations travels on the overnight ferry from Lerwick to Aberdeen.

For information on how to register please visit our Contact page.