Tuna sold for a record $736,000

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

As fears over the dwindling stocks of bluefin tuna increase, so does the price of this desirable fish. And in the first auction of the year at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan, a 269kg tuna sold for a record-breaking $736,000 (£475,234).

The price translates to 210,000 yen per kilogram, or $1,238 per pound - also a record, according to Yutaka Hasegawa, a Tsukiji market official.
Though the fish is undoubtedly high quality, the price has more to do with the celebratory atmosphere that surrounds the first auction of the year.

Boost for Japan

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co, which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said he wanted to give Japan a boost after last year's devastating tsunami.

"Japan has been through a lot the last year due to the disaster,' Mr Kimura told the Daily Mail. "Japan needs to hang in there. So I tried hard myself and ended up buying the most expensive one." This year's record tuna was caught off Oma, in Aomori prefecture and just north of the tsunami-battered coast.

Mr Kimura also expressed a desire to keep the fish in Japan, rather than see it taken overseas.

Mouth-watering and eye-watering

The best slices of bluefin called 'o-toro' in Japan can sell for as much as $24 dollars per piece in Tokyo sushi bars. This record breaking bluefin, if sold at cost could be as much as $96 per piece.

"It's superb. I can do nothing but smile. I am very happy" Kosuke Shimogawara told the Daily Mail. The 51-year-old customer continued "It's unbelievable. President Kimura is so generous. I have to say thank you to him".

Some 80 percent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefins caught are eaten in Japan - and are the most sought-after delicacies by sushi lovers. Japanese fishermen face growing calls for tighter fishing rules however, amid declining tuna stocks worldwide.

In November 2010, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas voted to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by around 4 percent, from 13,500 to 12,900 metric tons annually. It also agreed on measures to try to improve enforcement of quotas on bluefin.

However, the decision was strongly criticised by environmental groups, who hoped to see bluefin fishing slashed or suspended.
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