These fish may not know it, but they are in the final stages before they take their big trip to some glitzy restaurant in Hong Kong, Macau or Shanghai in a cold induced daze. They will not only ride a small freight plane but a wide-bodied jet as well, and they will beat some 90% of their human countrymen out of the borders of the Philippines. I did a feature on these live fish for export consolidators in Coron before, here, and they may have come from fish “motels” prior to that, here. On our most recent trip to Coron, we went to yet another fish exporter so that Mrs. MM and the Teen would have a chance to see them for themselves. This time around, they had lots of fish in the various holding tanks, and there were huge blocks of ice floating and melting away in each tank. Apparently, the fish lulled into a daze in the very cool water, before being packed with lots of sea water and oxygen for transport to cities abroad.
At somewhere around PHP2,000-2,500+ per kilo for just the right size of live lapu-lapu of only a few varieties (the red ones here are primo) at this point in the supply chain, these are VERY HIGH VALUE export items. The fishermen get a whopping PHP1,200-1,500 per kilo so they too want to catch these fish carefully and handle them gingerly until they get to the consolidators. It’s no wonder that live fish in Hong Kong can sometimes fetch a whopping USD120-200 per kilo! These particular fish were a few hours away from packing and transport to Manila. The guys at this company were nice enough to allow us access and to take these photos. This was only one of several dozen holding tanks in the warehouse. And surprisingly, these fish were bigger than I had expected, as the 1-kilo size is considered the gold standard…
The fish were already a bit sluggish in this cool bath, and it was easy to pick them up or catch them in large plastic containers. As I have mentioned before, I was both amazed by this sight and also saddened by the details of this type of business… More on those thoughts in my previous post on the same matter. If you ever get a chance to visit Coron, and you want to see one of these fish consolidators, just get your tricycle driver to take you to a factory and finagle your way in for a quick look around.