Bluefin tuna price slumps at Japan auction

January 5, 2014
A fishmonger checks a bluefin tuna before the first trading of the new year at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, on January 5, 2014

A giant bluefin tuna sold at a Japanese auction on Sunday for less than five percent of the record-breaking sum paid last year amid concerns over soaring prices for the prized delicacy.

The 230-kilogram (507-pound) was purchased at the Tsukiji market's first auction of the year for 7.36 million yen ($70,000), significantly down from the 155.4 million yen paid for a fish of similar quality in 2013—slipping below 10 million yen for the first time in five years.

Bluefin is usually the most expensive fish available at Tsukiji, the biggest fish and wholesale seafood market in the world.

A piece of "otoro", or the fatty underbelly, can cost up to 2,000 yen at high-end Tokyo restaurants.

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the company that runs the popular Sushi-Zanmai chain, said the quality of the fish was as good as last year's, telling reporters: "It's the best."

The price decline was in part due to the greater number of bluefins available from Oma, the northern Japanese city that is a top site for fishing.

But after overheated bidding last year saw prices skyrocket, concerns over excessive inflation saw other bidders stay away from vying with the Sushi-Zanmai chain, which won last year's auction for the record-breaking fish.

Fishmongers check frozen bluefin tuna on auction at the first trading of the new year, at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, on January 5, 2014
"The first auction should be a place to bid for the best-quality tuna, which is thought to be a lucky charm for business," said Makoto Kondo, spokesman for the rival Hong Kong-linked Itamae-Sushi chain.

"But it turned out to be a bidding for the sake of high prices last year."

Decades of overfishing have seen global tuna stocks crash, leading some Western nations to call for a ban on catching endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna.

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

The growing popularity of Japanese sushi worldwide has also led to increased demand.

Explore further: Record $736k paid for single tuna fish in Japan

Related Stories

Record $736k paid for single tuna fish in Japan

January 5, 2012

A deep-pocketed restaurateur shelled out nearly three-quarters of a million dollars for a single tuna, the most ever paid for the fish, at Japan's Tsukiji fish market on Thursday.

Dangerous methylmercury levels in sushi

November 25, 2013

Eating sushi can increase risk of cardiovascular disease. A recent study showed that tuna sashimi contains the highest levels of methylmercury in fish-sushi, based on samples taken from across the USA.

Atlantic tuna quotas unchanged for 2014

November 25, 2013

Annual fishing quotas for bluefin tuna in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean will remain unchanged in 2014, an international meeting on tuna fishing decided Monday, despite stiff opposition from Japan.

Pacific nations agree to cut bluefin tuna catches

September 5, 2013

Asia-Pacific fishing nations and territories agreed on Thursday to cut catches of young bluefin tuna by 15 percent, with an agreement environmentalists said would not stop overfishing.

Call for Atlantic tuna quotas to be retained

November 11, 2013

A leading environmental group on Monday called on authorities to keep tough fishing quotas on Atlantic tuna when governments meet next week to set industry rules.

Optimism for deal to lower Pacific tuna catches

December 5, 2013

Conservationists and fishing industry representatives expressed confidence Thursday they were close to agreement on cutbacks in the lucrative tuna fishing industry in the Pacific.

Recommended for you

Fish-inspired material changes color using nanocolumns

March 20, 2019

Inspired by the flashing colors of the neon tetra fish, researchers have developed a technique for changing the color of a material by manipulating the orientation of nanostructured columns in the material.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.