Japanese sushi chain owner and self-described “Tuna King” Kiyoshi Kimura paid a record of 333.6 million yen or more than $3 million for a 612-pound (278-kilogram) bluefin tuna at the first New Year’s auction at a Tokyo fish market.
The winning sum for the prized and threatened species at the auction was more than double the previous record he set of $1.76 million for a slightly smaller fish from the annual New Year auction, set in 2013.
The Kiyomura Corp., which Kimura runs, footed the bill at over $5,000 per pound. The fish usually sells for up to $40 per pound, though the price can fluctuate to more than $200 per pound. The gigantic tuna had to be wheeled into its new owner’s sushi restaurant on a low platform, its mouth agape. It will translate to more than 12,000 pieces of sushi for the company’s Sushi Zanmai chain.
“The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did (pay) a little too much,” Kimura told reporters outside the Tokyo market. The frequent auction winner has been known to pay well above market price for the immense fish.
However, many environmental groups would argue the price is still too low for a species that has floated ever closer to extinction. Experts say demand for Pacific bluefin has led to overfishing, causing stocks of the fish to fall to just 2.6 percent of their historic size.
Bluefin tuna normally sells for up to $40 a pound, but the price steeply increases by the year’s end and reaches its highs for prized catches in Northern Japan.
Japan is the biggest consumer of bluefin tuna, leading to the overfishing of the species, with some experts warning that it faces extinction.