Tuna fetches record 333 mil. yen at new market's New Year auction

A wholesaler checking frozen tuna ahead of the new year's first auction at the Toyosu Market in Tokyo on Jan 5 2019

TOKYO: A giant tuna on Saturday was sold for record $3.1 million in Tokyo´s new fish market, which replaced the world-famous Tsukiji late previous year, held its first pre-dawn New Year´s auction.

Later in the day sushi chefs sliced up the giant fish with special knives resembling Japanese swords at Kimura's main restaurant just outside Tsukiji, where demolition work is under way.

He paid the previous record of 155 million yen ($1.4m) for a fish in 2013.

It was caught off northern Japan's Aomori prefecture and sold on Saturday at the first auction of 2019 at the city's new fish market.

The buyer was Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the Sushi Zanmai restaurant chain.

"The quality of the tuna I bought is the best", he stated as quoted by Japanese broadcaster NHK, adding that the high prices surprised him.

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Bluefin tuna are classified as an endangered species by the World Wildlife Fund, which says the species is under threat from illegal fishing. "The price was higher than I originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna".

Japan consumes a large portion of the global bluefin catch, a highly prized sushi ingredient known in Japan as "kuro maguro" (black tuna) and dubbed by sushi connoisseurs as the "black diamond" because of its scarcity.

The market opened in October and replaces the old Tsukiji market, one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations.

A single piece of "otoro", or the fish's fatty underbelly, can cost dozens of dollars at high-end Tokyo restaurants.

Experts warn that the fish is facing potential extinction, with stocks of Pacific bluefin having dropped 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels.

"Finally, the first New Year auction was held at Toyosu market", said Yoshihiko Otaki, a market official. The move was delayed repeatedly because of concerns over soil contamination. A few businesses stayed in Tsukiji but almost all of the 500-plus wholesalers and other businesses shifted to Toyosu.

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