An Inside Look of the Famous Tsukiji Market

Photographer Gaelin Rosenwaks walks the auction floors of the famous Japanese market

Photographer and marine scientist Gaelin Rosenwaks visited Tsukiji to photograph the bluefin auctions as part of a bigger project called, "Global Catch: Portraits of a Precious Resource." Her company, Global Ocean Exploration (GOE), devotes to bring cutting edge expedition science to the public through photography, film and writing. She founded GOE in 2008, after she had an "aha" moment aboard a fishing boat, while satellite tagging bluefin tuna for her PhD research. "I realized that scientists were doing amazing research that no one knew about," she says. "I was studying a fish whose numbers were declining rapidly. It was at that moment, I decided to take a leave of absence from my studies and start GOE to help scientists communicate and share their work, so it would have an impact beyond that of a scientific journal. I haven't looked back since. I now spend time on icebreakers in the Arctic to research vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and appeared on National Geographic Channel's fishing series, Fish Warrior, as a co-host, angler and scientific consultant." For this particular photography project, Rosenwaks explored and shot fish markets all over the world and the diverse ways in which different cultures use fish. This was an effort to open eyes to the incredible diversity of ocean life and how people consume and value this vanishing resource. "I had many takeaways after visiting the market, but perhaps the greatest was the overwhelming amount and kinds of seafood that move through the market on a daily basis," she says. "It is hard to fathom how the ocean can sustain that kind of consumption. I have visited many markets, but Tsukiji is on an entirely different scale." Follow her on: Twitter: @GaelinGOExplore and Instagram: @GaelinGOExplore Pictured here is a bluefin tuna loin displayed like a precious piece of jewelry or art in a glass display case.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Tsukiji Market auctions line up frozen bluefin tuna by the dozen for inspection.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
The tuna buyers carefully inspect every tuna for fat content and quality of the flesh before the auction begins.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
The feeling inside the auction is frenetic with the auctioneers and buyers in constant motion moments before the auction begins.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
The bluefin are marked with red paint and tags to identify them for the auction. The sheer numbers of the bluefin in the auction room are staggering, especially considering this auction goes on nearly everyday.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Once the bluefin are purchased in the auction, they are brought to individual stalls within the Tsukiji Market where they will be portioned for sale to restaurants and other retailers. Sushi chefs build a relationship with a particular seller relying on their ability to choose the best tuna. Here, a father and son move a large tuna loin onto their cutting table.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Slices of the loin are displayed, so buyers can inspect the quality and fattiness of the tuna before purchase.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
A refrigerated case filled with gorgeous bluefin loins ready for sale. The meticulous display and handling of the fish is beautiful.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Tuna heads are discarded after they are butchered. The amount of fish moving through this market is mind numbing.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
At the tuna auction, other species like these marlin are also auctioned, but in much smaller numbers than the tunas. Their bills are cut off and like the tuna, a cross section of the tail is cut for quality inspection.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
At the tuna auction, other species like these marlin are also auctioned, but in much smaller numbers than the tunas. Their bills are cut off and like the tuna, a cross section of the tail is cut for quality inspection.Gaelin Rosenwaks
The diversity of species sold at Tsukiji Market is amazing; everything from large tunas, swordfish, and halibut to small invertebrates like these cuttlefish steeping in their ink.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Tuna heads on display at a retail shop outside of the market, presumably being sold to make soup stock. Very little is wasted as nearly all parts are sold, including tuna hearts.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
In the general market at Tsukiji, where the chefs and retailers come to buy their seafood, every species is carefully displayed and presented. Here, octopus are displayed like flowers.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
In Japan, fish we would consider bait for tuna or marlin are a delicacy.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
Fish, large and small, are for sale at Tsukiji. Everything from soldierfish to squid are present. The diversity is astounding and unlike anything I have ever seen before in all of my travels to markets around the world.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks
I am always struck when I see I fish on display that I have never seen before and didn’t know existed. This was the case with the Spotted Knifejaw, here on display with groupers. Visiting these markets adds to my understanding of the diversity of the life in the ocean.Photo courtesy of Gaelin Rosenwaks