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Bluefin tuna sells for record $1.76M in Tokyo

By Malcolm Foster

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:29 a.m. HST, Jan 06, 2013

Photo Gallery: Pricy tuna

TOKYO » A bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million at a Tokyo auction Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year — even as environmentalists warn that stocks of the majestic, speedy fish are being depleted worldwide amid strong demand for sushi.

In the year's first auction at Tokyo's sprawling Tsukiji fish market, the 222-kilogram (489-pound) tunacaught off northeastern Japan sold for 155.4 million yen, said Ryoji Yagi, a market official.

The fish's tender pink and red meat is prized for sushi and sashimi. The best slices of fatty bluefin — called "o-toro" here — can sell for 2,000 yen ($24) per piece at upmarket Tokyo sushi bars.

Japanese eat 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and much the global catch is shipped to Japan for consumption.

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said "the price was a bit high," but that he wanted to "encourage Japan," according to Kyodo News agency. He was planning to serve the fish to customers later Saturday.

Kimura also set the old record of 56.4 million yen at last year's New Year's auction, which tends to attract high bids as a celebratory way to kick off the new year — or get some publicity. The high prices don't necessarily reflect exceptionally high fish quality.

The price works out to a stunning 700,000 yen per kilogram, or $3,603 per pound.

Stocks of all three bluefin species —the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic — have fallen over the past 15 years amid overfishing.

On Monday, an intergovernmental group is to release data on Pacific Bluefin stocks that environmentalists believe will likely show an alarming decline.

"Everything we're hearing is that there's no good news for the Pacific Bluefin," said Amanda Nickson, the director of the Washington-based Pew Environmental Group's global tuna conservation campaign. "We're seeing a very high value fish continue to be overfished."

The population of another species, the Southern Bluefin, which swims in the southern Pacific, has plunged to 3-8 percent of its original levels.

Stocks of bluefin caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean plunged by 60 percent between 1997 and 2007 due to rampant, often illegal, overfishing and lax quotas. Although there has been some improvement in recent years, experts say the outlook for the species is still fragile.

In November, the 48 member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of AtlanticTunas, or ICCAT, voted to maintain strict catch limits on the species, although some countries argued for higher limits. The quota will be allowed to rise slightly from 12,900 metric tons a year to 13,500. Quotas were as high as 32,000 tons in 2006.

A total catch limit on the Pacific Bluefin has been imposed only recently in the eastern part of the Pacific near the United States and Mexico, but not by the intergovernmental group that oversees the western Pacific, Nickson said. So-called effort limits in place now — restrictions on the number of vessels and days fishing allowed — are not effective, she added, and fisherman also are targeting juvenile populations and spawning grounds.

"This poor species is being hit from every angle," she said.

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MolokaiChuck wrote:
Freaking crazy/stupid!
on January 5,2013 | 02:05PM
HAJAA1 wrote:
Dumb. No, really.
on January 5,2013 | 02:16PM
sknight wrote:
This is a New Year's publicity thing--the fish doesn't go for anywhere near that amount in regular auction the rest of the year--though if they really want to preserve their stocks, maybe it should, to keep the fish off of those 100-yen sushi conveyors. This particular chain will sell the record-priced tuna for about 150-250 yen a slice, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the deal, but again, he chalks it up to publicity costs.
on January 5,2013 | 02:58PM
oahuresident wrote:
I have eaten at sushi maizen often. The o toro goes for 900 to 1000 yen per slice (11 to 12 dollars)
on January 5,2013 | 03:03PM
oxtail01 wrote:
So you're begging about being d....b?
on January 5,2013 | 10:20PM
kukui_1 wrote:
This is nuts. If you have that much money to spend on a stupid fish, many other much better ways to put that same money to better use.
on January 5,2013 | 03:08PM
64hoo wrote:
yea smoking cigarettes.
on January 5,2013 | 04:29PM
sumoroach wrote:
he can spend money that he made. Not spending other people money like you.
on January 6,2013 | 08:21AM
kainalu wrote:
Obviously, raw fish spoils quickly. Imagine the amount of ahi and aku that is tossed out each day. Disgusting waste of fish.
on January 5,2013 | 03:20PM
oxtail01 wrote:
Who ever said Japanese are smart - well, this proves that wrong!
on January 5,2013 | 03:26PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
They reportedly like Natto, u know the fermented soy bean paste of beans, that helps fight cholesterol. Also, if one spends so much money on one small meal, then one cannot use the money to stuff themselves with 200 Zip Pacs. Btw I am Japanese. Also Zippy's got good Oxtail Soup.
on January 5,2013 | 04:53PM
bumbye wrote:
I guess ignorance is bliss, then. They have the longest lifespan in the world.
on January 5,2013 | 05:02PM
oxtail01 wrote:
Only the Japanese would do this - they grow melons in a square box and charge outrageous prices for it (and Japanese are stupid enough to buy it). They rub beer on their skinny cows and think it's great - none of them have eaten the greatest steaks in the world - good old American beef! They pay outrageous prices for a tiny cup of coffee when the world is awash with good coffee. They gotta be the d....best group of consumers in the world!
on January 5,2013 | 03:31PM
Anonymous wrote:
Well think about where the biggest, juiciest piece of oxtail gets it's flavor from. Plus even though 50% of it is bone, Hawaii people pay more per pound for it, most of the time, then ribeye.
on January 5,2013 | 04:12PM
Anonymous wrote:
Actually they only do all that because of the self-imposed import restrictions on raw food products from abroad, particularly the US.
on January 5,2013 | 05:55PM
oxtail01 wrote:
That's true for beef but not other things that they pay outrageous price for.
on January 5,2013 | 10:14PM
cojef wrote:
They are purist in the sense that beef importations are restricted to only natural beef. Any artificially enhanced beef is taboo. That means more beef is imported from Australia as opposed to the USA.
on January 6,2013 | 06:24AM
sak wrote:
Now you are showing your ignorance!
on January 6,2013 | 06:36AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Aku is the best. Poke, dried, fried, etc. More taste and cheaper than ahi including the pre-frozen kind. O-toro shmo-toro. Otaru!
on January 5,2013 | 04:06PM
HD36 wrote:
Sushi and sashimi originated from Japan centuries ago. Generation after generation has eaten Maguro as a staple and tradition. These were market forces at work determining the price, not government subsidies. Anytime prices skyrocket it signals high demand and low supply. Perhaps the species is on the verge of extinction from overfishing. I know Vietnam and Indonesia are now bringing in tons of undersized tuna.
on January 5,2013 | 04:16PM
oxtail01 wrote:
Overpaying is a recent phenomenon that they learned from Americans.
on January 5,2013 | 10:17PM
HD36 wrote:
If you mean the housing market prior to 2007 I'd have to agree. If you mean US Treasury Bonds I'd have to agree.
on January 5,2013 | 11:16PM
sknight wrote:
Actually, until relatively recently, maguro--especially hon-maguro, such as that in this picture--was considered a considerable luxury, until technology and globalization made it possible to catch, freeze, and ship fish across long distances. Look at what happened to cashmere--another former luxury item, until some bright-eyed marketer decided every American deserved to own a cashmere sweater, then figured out how to source the yarn with little regard for the environmental consequences. Now everyone can pick up a cashmere sweater at Costco for sixty bucks, and meanwhile a vast desert is expanding in China's western region, encroaching on Beijing and sending vast clouds of yellow dust into the atmosphere, dust which is carried on the winds all the way to... Costco headquarters in Washington State. Some of nature's luxuries were meant to stay just that.
on January 6,2013 | 03:29AM
I love raw fish, especially aku only from hawaiian waters. No imports!
on January 6,2013 | 05:29AM
cojef wrote:
I only like fresh aku.
on January 6,2013 | 06:27AM
nippy68 wrote:
why spend twenty somethihg dollars for a pair of "toro" sushi? you will only s@#t that thing out within an hour or two.....
on January 6,2013 | 06:34AM
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