Self styled Japanese "Tuna King" Kiyoshi Kimura made the highest bid for the New Year's first fish on the famed Tsukiji market in Tokyo.
About 80% of the Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tunas are consumed in Japan, and tunas that are particular suited for sashimi and sushi can command very high prices. One tuna, in particular, weighing it at just over 467 pounds, brought it more than $642,000 during the first auction of the year.
A giant blue tuna with a tiny blue wing was sold on Thursday for 74.2 million yen ($636.000) in Tokyo, during the first auction held this year at the main fish market from the country.
But it is not all celebration over the auction of the Pacific bluefin tuna. That comes out to more than $1,300 a pound for Kimura, whose Kimura Corp. owns a restaurant chain called Sushi Zanmai.
Japanese are the biggest consumers of the torpedo-shaped bluefin tuna, and surging consumption of sushi has boosted demand, as experts warn the species could go extinct. He said: "I feel it was a bit expensive, but I am happy that I was able to successfully win at auction a tuna of good shape and size".
But conservation groups protest that attention should be paid to a different, and much darker, reality confronting Pacific bluefin tuna: the species' dwindling population. "It is happening because these fish are valuable and prized and culturally important, and also because people want to eat Bluefin tuna since it tastes great".
"This tuna is being fished at rates up to three times higher than scientists say is sustainable", Amanda Nickson, director of global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a recent report, according to NBC News.