Saturday was the first tuna auction of the year at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, and a single, 489-pound bluefin tuna sold to a sushi restaurant magnate for a staggering 155 million yen — that would be $1.76 million, or $3,600 per pound. The buyer, as multiple outlets have reported, was Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain; and some customers at one of his restaurants Saturday night got to sample slices of the prized, gargantuan fish.
The price was more than triple that of the highest per-pound price seen at auction last year, and even Kimura admits it was "a bit high." (The fish was about twenty pounds lighter than the biggest fish auctioned last year.) He paid it, though, to "encourage Japan" in what’s become an annual publicity stunt to bolster fish sales in the country in a time of increasing bad press about bluefin in particular.
There has, of course, been plenty of controversy surrounding the over-fishing of bluefin, and new figures show a continued decline of the fish in Pacific waters. Add to that the ongoing prohibitions against fishing in certain waters off Japan owing to fears of radiation contamination from the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
And, as we heard just recently, there are plans to close Tsukiji at the end of this year and relocate — in part because the bustling fish trade has outgrown the massive, 78-year-old space, and in part because the government feels the property it sits on is too valuable.
See the big guy up close, below.