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Interviewee: Richard and Raymond Canastra

Role: Co-Owners of Whaling City Seafood Display Auction

Date of Interview: 9/26/04

Collection: Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Owners of the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction talk about starting their business and the challenges of getting the boats and the buyers to adopt their new display system.

Transcript: RiC: It was September of 1994 that we opened up.  And it was funny because we didn’t know if the boats would be behind us or not.  And Ray and I are Portuguese and what’s kinda funny is that our last name, Canastra, means fish basket.  It’s a basket in which the fishermen brings his fish to auction in Portugal.  But anyway, we didn’t know what we were gonna do.  The first night, well the Portuguese were behind us because they used a fish auction, a display auction in Europe, in Portugal.  All European countries have a fish auction.

RaC: Which they display the fish then bid.

RiC: And then bid.  So the first night we opened up, we had over 200,000 pounds of yellowtail flounder and we were the only buyers cause none of the buyers

RaC: Would join us.

RiC: Would join the auction. 

RaC: But we had our fillet company, so we were buying fish. 

RiC: We were buying fish. 

RaC: Forced to buy it.

RiC: Forced buy it!   We’re filleting fish coming out of ears.

RaC: We were unloading boats.  We didn’t sleep for a week.  We unloaded around the clock.
RiC: We were like in a coma, so what happened is that all the buyers were boycotting because they didn’t like, they didn’t want a display auction because a lot of them made their money, quite frankly on overages from the boats, cuttin’ the boat because they overyield.  Meaning if a vessel is out at sea and he comes in, he puts 10,000 pounds on the blackboard and if he weighs out 10,600 pounds or 9,400 pounds, he over or under yield, so there is cut in the price.  It was just a game, where buyers would say ‘Well you didn’t have enough fish so I missed my orders so I’m gonna have to cut you.  Or you have too much fish, and I can’t process it, so I’m gonna cut you.’  There was always problems with quality. No matter what fish you brought in, it was always number twos.  The quality wasn’t good enough so they were getting cut here on that.  And after they unloaded them, there was funny weights going along, where they would

RaC: Fix scales.

RiC: Fix scales, in which they would make their money that way.   Also, the fishermen didn’t care too much about their quality only because they knew they were gonna get cut anyway.  They were gonna get cut no matter what; if they brought 10 ton of ice or 30 ton of ice, they were gonna get cut on the quality.

RaC: There was no incentive to actually want to have excellent fish.

RiC: To have good fish.  So gettin’back with the buyers, the buyers bought part of the auction and what happened in that week’s time, we cut maybe a million pounds of fish and we’re sellin’ to everyone else’s customers.  So the buyers, their customers were callin’ us, so they weren’t getting the business.

RaC: Fulton Market, Philadelphia.

RiC: So they woke up and said we better go join this auction or RC Sea Foods are gonna take all our business.  I remember Tony D., from D. Fillet, his famous saying was, “Move out of the way, I’m going to the display!”

To read Richard and Raymond's full transcript, click here.