Giant tuna fetches record $3.1 million at Japan auction

Roman Schwartz
January 5, 2019

Costing 1.2 million yen per kilogram, the total price of the 278-kilogram tuna from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, is the highest paid at the metropolitan central market since 1999, the first year for which such records are available.

The fish's price tag is the equivalent of almost 70kg of gold or a three-bed apartment in Manhattan, but Kiyoshi Kimura believes it's worth every cent as he's eager to serve his clients.

Kiyomura Corp. owner Kiyoshi Kimura, left, stands near the bluefin tuna which he made a wining bid at the annual New Year auction, in Tokyo Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

"I bought a good tuna", Mr Kimura told AFP after the auction.

Kimura bought the most expensive tuna in the first auction of the year from 2012 to 2017, including one at the previous record of 155.4 million yen in 2013. But a year ago, the owner of a different fish restaurant chain paid the highest price.

The 2019 auction was the first new year sale to take place at the new fish market in Toyosu, on the site of a former gas plant.

The previous site at Tsukiji opened in 1935 and became the world's biggest fish market and a popular tourist attraction.

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The final New Year's auction at Tsukiji in 2018 saw a tuna fetch 36.45 million yen.

The Japanese are known to be the biggest consumers of the torpedo-shaped bluefin tuna, and the growing consumption has led to overfishing of the species.

Kimura purchased the fish at an auction at Tokyo's newest fish market.

'The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is, ' said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, wearing white rubber boots, said: "I sincerely hope this market will be loved by many people".

Few would contest the fact that Tsukiji was past its prime, and there were concerns about outdated fire regulations and hygiene controls.

The relocation was delayed by nearly two years as Tokyo had to deal with soil and air contamination and other issues at Toyosu, which formerly housed a gas production plant.

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