Bluefin tuna price plummets at Tokyo auction

Bluefin tuna price
Kiyoshi Kimura measures bluefin tuna purchased for $70,000 at a Tokyo auction. Images are video screen grabs

What a difference a year makes when it comes to the price of bluefin tuna at the first year’s auction at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

On Sunday a 507-pound bluefin sold for $70,000, to sushi restaurant chain owner Kiyoshi Kimura. And while $70,000 sounds like a whopping sum, consider that Kimura last year paid $1.76 million for a 489-pound bluefin. That’s about a 96% drop.

The $1.76 millIon was a record sum for the annual auction, topping the record price Kimura paid in 2012.

Why such a drastic drop this year?

Bluefin tuna price plummets at Tokyo auction
Bluefin tuna price plummets at Tokyo auction

Apparently, it had nothing to do with the quality of tuna flesh.

Rather, it seems, Kimura simply scared off other bidders, who complained last year that he had driven prices to unreasonable levels merely for the sake of being top bidder.

Stated an unnamed auction official in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper: “Last year’s winning bid got out of hand. Fishermen were said to be getting too competitive in hoping to make a fortune in a single catch. I’m relieved as the bidding is back to normal.”

Bluefin tuna price plummets at Tokyo auction
Bluefin tuna price plummets at Tokyo auction

Kimura is quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “I’m glad that the congratulatory price for this year’s bid went back to being reasonable. Fishermen would have expected a higher price.”

Overall, 1,729 bluefin tuna were sold Sunday at Tsukiji. That’s down from 2,419 sold in 2013.

The first year’s auction typically generates headlines, which brings the plight of bluefin tuna into the spotlight.

Atlantic bluefin, for example, are critically endangered. Fishing is regulated, but some say the regulations aren’t strict enough or being enforced properly.

The Pacific bluefin stock, according to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, also is seriously overfished.

Amanda Nickson, director for global tuna conservation for The Pew Environment Group, stated: “The population has effectively been decimated. Over 90 percent of bluefin tuna are caught before they reach reproductive age. You have to wonder if this is remotely sustainable.”

Japan is said to consume about 80 percent of the world’s bluefin tuna, which are prized because of the high fat content of their flesh.

Click here to view a YouTube clip of told being prepared for auction.

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