Bluefin tuna goes for $3M at first Tokyo sale of ’19

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - News -

A 612-pound bluefin tuna sold for a record $3 mil­lion at the first auc­tion of 2019, af­ter Tokyo’s famed Tsuk­iji mar­ket was moved to a new site on the city’s wa­ter­front.

The win­ning bid for the prized but threat­ened species at the predawn auc­tion Satur­day was more than dou­ble the 2013 an­nual New Year auc­tion.

It was paid by Kiy­omura Corp., whose owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, runs the Sushi Zan­mai chain. Kim- ura has of­ten won the an­nual auc­tion in the past.

Ja­panese broad­caster NHK showed a beam­ing Kimura say­ing that he was sur­prised by the high price of tuna this year. But he added, “The qual­ity of the tuna I bought is the best.”

The auc­tion prices are way above usual for bluefin tuna. The fish nor­mally sells for up to $40 a pound, but the price rises to over $200 a pound near the year’s end, es­pe­cially for prized catches from Oma in north­ern Ja­pan.

Last year’s auc­tion was the last at Tsuk­iji be­fore the mar­ket shifted to a new fa­cil­ity on a for­mer gas plant site on Tokyo Bay. The move was de­layed re­peat­edly due to con­cerns over soil con­tam­i­na­tion.

Ja­panese are the big­gest con­sumers of the tor­pe­doshaped bluefin tuna, and surg­ing con­sump­tion here and over­seas has led to over­fish­ing of the species. Ex­perts warn it faces pos­si­ble ex­tinc­tion, with stocks of Pa­cific bluefin de­pleted by 96 per­cent from their prein­dus­trial lev­els.

“The cel­e­bra­tion sur­round­ing the an­nual Pa­cific bluefin auc­tion hides how deeply in trou­ble this species re­ally is,” said Jamie Gib­bon, as­so­ciate man­ager for global tuna con­ser­va­tion at The Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts.

There are signs of progress to­ward pro­tect­ing the bluefin, and Ja­pan and other gov­ern­ments have backed plans to re­build Pa­cific bluefin stocks, with a tar­get of 20 per­cent of his­toric lev­els by 2034.

Decades-old Tsuk­iji was one of Ja­pan’s most pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tions as well as the world’s big­gest fish mar­ket. The new mar­ket opened in Oc­to­ber. A few busi­nesses stayed in Tsuk­iji, but nearly all of the 500-plus whole­salers and other busi­nesses shifted to Toyosu.

Tsuk­iji is due to be re­de­vel­oped, though for now it’s be­ing turned into a park­ing lot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.


Kiy­omura Corp. owner Kiyoshi Kimura stands near the 612-pound bluefin tuna he bought with a win­ning bid of $3 mil­lion at the an­nual New Year auc­tion Satur­day in Tokyo.

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