During the early hours when the sun is not yet up and the majority of the population of Boulogne are still fast asleep, about fifty men enter the fish auction buildings in the heart of Boulogne-sur-Mer port. The auction can now begin.
With a fishing fleet of around one hundred boats and over 70 different species of fish unloaded every day, Boulogne-sur-Mer is France’s biggest fishing port. Fishing takes place in the Channel, the North Sea, the Atlantic and in the west of Scotland and the fish is sold at the Fish Auction by bidding in the auction room or remotely over the internet. The same scene is repeated every day between 5 and 6 in the morning from Monday to Saturday.
From producer to buyer
A bell announces the start of selling. You have to be quick as trading is short and the transactions are fast. Everybody knows each other in the Fish Market. On one side, there are the official ‘auctioneers’ and the sellers, and on the other the buyers. Prices are displayed and bids can be shouted as well as made over the internet, as is predominantly the case. All the items sold at the auction can be bought remotely by logging on via the web at the time of the auction. Transactions (invoicing, collection, payment to producers) are carried out using the fish market’s electronic sales system.
The Fish Market
The Fish Market, located right next to the Fish Auction, houses over 9,000 m2 of refrigerated space for the landing, allocation and shipment of the fish landed in the port. It is good to know that the fish market in Boulogne-sur-Mer is a partner of the ‘Mr. Goodfish’ programme which is supported by the National Sea Centre, Nausicaa and which campaigns for the sustainable consumption of seafood products. As a result, wholesale fish merchants and buyers have the opportunity to identify products recommended by specialists, particularly in light of their seasonal nature, and thus contribute, in turn, to the preservation of the sea's resources.
If you are interested in experiencing this unique atmosphere, guided tours are organised by the tourist office. A guide will show you around behind the scenes at the Fish Market and Auction. They will tell you all about the techniques and secrets of computerized fish sales on a grand scale. The tour is followed by breakfast at ‘Le Châtillon’, the meeting place for fishermen in the heart of the port area. The tour starts at 4.30 am, so set your alarm!