Japan’s ‘Sushi King’ Pays $3.1 Million for Endangered Bluefin Tuna
A Japanese sushi tycoon paid a whopping $3.1 million to take home a giant bluefin tuna from an auction in Tokyo on Saturday.
Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of restaurant chain Sushi Zanmai, paid the record price for the 278-kilogram (612-pound) fish, which was caught off Japan’s northern coast.
The price at the predawn auction at the new Toyosu fish market was nearly 10 times higher than the sum paid at last year’s event at the world-famous but now-closed Tsukiji market.
Kimura, the highest bidder at the same auction for several years, paid the previous record of $1.4 million for another fish in 2013.
The bluefin tuna typically sell for up to $40 a pound, but the price rises to more than $200 before the year ends, according to The Guardian.
“The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did too much,” Kimura said. “The price was higher than originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna.”
Chefs sliced up the tuna later that day at Kimura’s main restaurant, where hundreds queued for a taste.
“I have come here every year to eat New Year sushi but this tuna is tastier than ever,” 71-year-old Reiko Yamada told AFP, according to Al Jazeera.
The Japanese are reportedly the biggest consumers of the Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis), which has been classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager of global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Its population has fallen to less than 3.5 percent of its historic size and overfishing still continues today.”
To address the escalating scarcity, Japan and other governments agreed on fishing restrictions in 2017 — with the goal of increasing stocks from 20% of historic levels by 2034, the Washington Post noted. However, the move caused difficulties in the town of Oma in Aomori prefecture, which is known for its tuna catch.
Because of its rarity, Oma tuna has been dubbed the “black diamond” of tuna, with fishermen still using traditional methods to catch them. Unfortunately, the restrictions prompted them to go slow in the summer and focus during fall and winter, when tuna prices are much higher.