TOKYO: A huge bluefin tuna was sold for US$176,000 (K476,000) in the first auction of the year at a Tokyo fish market yesterday, amid growing pressure on Japan to help save the threatened fish.
The 232.6kg bluefin tuna – caught off Japan’s northern region of Aomori – fetched a winning bid of 16.28 million yen (US$176,000), an official at the Tsukiji fish market said.
It was the second highest such bid yet, after a record 20.02 million yen paid for a bluefin tuna in 2001, the official said.
The fish was bought by a pair of Japanese and Hong Kong sushi restaurant owners who had also made a joint top bid for a bluefin tuna in the first auction of 2009 at Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market.
“I want to make an impact on the Japanese and Hong Kong economies by buying the highest-priced tuna,” the Hong Kong sushi restaurant owner said, according to the Sankei Shimbun daily’s website.
The auction came amid worries among Japanese, the world’s largest consumers of bluefin tuna, about growing calls for a trade ban for the fish, which environmentalists warn is on its way to extinction.
In a move to protect the species, an international body meeting in Brazil in November agreed to cut the allowable bluefin tuna catch in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by about 40% this year compared to last year.
Japan, which consumes more than 80% of tuna caught in the Mediterranean, endorsed the proposal and agreed to reduce its own catch quota accordingly.
“Tuna is a precious food, which is the core of Japanese food culture,” said Keiichi Suzuki, president of the Tsukiji fish market, where some 2,280 tuna fish were bid for yesterday. – AFP