A few months ago, we arrived at the Fulton Fish Market at around midnight. It’s the best time to see the market — the largest collective of seafood wholesalers in the United States — really come alive. Vendors begin to set up and buyers come in to do their daily purchases. By around 5 AM, it’s over. It’s not a place the average New Yorker makes the trek to, but these days, the market is doing a brisk online business in the coronavirus crisis. That’s because anyone can purchase directly at FultonFishMarket.com, an initiative that started in 2016 to connect the public with the incredible variety of fresh fish that comes into the market.
All photos were taken in November 2019. The market is complying with all current hygiene orders in regards to coronavirus.
The Fulton Fish Market got its start in the South Street Seaport area in 1822, but moved up to Hunts Point in the Bronx in 2005, joining other critical food distribution centers like the Hunts Point Produce Terminal. Everything happens in a long warehouse where vendors set up their daily catch on either side of a wide corridor, pulling their catch from trucks directly into their stalls. Forklifts speed back and forth and buyers go from stall to stall getting all the fish they need for their restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. It’s all still run in a deliciously old school way, with most vendors using pen and paper to take orders. Vintage scales measure the weight of the fish.
Each vendor has a different specialty. Some only offer the highest quality fish and cater to high end restaurants like 11 Madison Park. The buyers for these places arrive first in the night. But there is seafood for every part of the ecosystem at this market. When you purchase fish from the supermarket or get seafood in your takeout, there’s a high chance that what you’re eating has come through the Fulton Fish Market. Some vendors specialize in shellfish, others large catches. If you order at FultonFishMarket.com, their team of experts “select the best fish from vendors every morning,” said Julia Blanter, Director of Digital Marketing at FultonFishMarket.com during our visit.
FultonFishMarket.com also sources seafood directly that may not be available readily in the market itself, including smoked salmon from Scotland, sea urchin from both coasts in America, domestic caviar, oysters from Canada and the United States, and more. For those items, they work directly with external vendors. Anthony Dattolico, Director of Procurement at FultonFishMarket.com and a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef says, “Even though this is the largest worldwide variety [of seafood], you won’t find these products in the market. We’re willing to go out and partner with these companies to really deliver a super product…We’re constantly looking to see what else is out there, what’s new, what people want.”
Walking through the Fulton Fish Market that morning, the breadth of the availability was made visible just through the day’s operation. There was #1 grade tuna, American red snapper, halibut, monkfish, uni, sea scallops, wild shrimp, dozens of varieties of East and West coast oysters, stone crabs, and much more. Some vendors are in their third generation of operation. One specialized in tuna and we watched toro getting cut out of the belly of a tuna. A swordfish, weighing about 240 pounds was getting cut as well.
The scene unfolding at Fulton Fish Market, while the city sleeps, is truly an incredible one to witness and to picture it still serving New York City in a time of crisis is inspiring. Blanter tells us, “FultonFishMarket.com is open and our consumer business is busier than ever. We’re fully stocked and delivering as usual with no delays. We lowered the free shipping minimum to $125 to make it even easier to shop. I love that we’re helping to keep American fishing communities afloat especially during this time. But what I’m excited about is that so many new customers are discovering that they can enjoy fresh, healthy seafood no matter where they are in the country. It’s the same high-quality seafood they were enjoying at their favorite restaurants but they have access to it direct with no middlemen, and as you saw, we sell the largest variety of seafood online in the world.”
In addition, FultonFishMarket.com is offering customers 15% off their order of $200 or more using code STOCKUP, and helping restaurants get back on their feet by giving them $10 in a check or credit for every customer they refer who places an order on the website. The market is complying with all current hygiene orders in regards to coronavirus. You can also ask the Fulton Fish Market for cooking questions and recipes, by emailing [email protected], sending a direct message to them on social or tweeting with the hashtag #AskFulton.
Next, check out what NYC’s food distribution center looks like!