Japanese Sushi Tycoon Pays $3.1 Million For Endangered Bluefin Tuna At Famous Year-Opening Auction

Tomohiro OhsumiGetty Images

Japanese “Tuna King” Kiyoshi Kimura lived up to his name at the country’s famous year-opening auction in Tokyo this week, dishing out a record $3.1 million for a giant bluefin tuna.

Kimura purchased the 612-pound tuna at an auction held in Tokyo’s newly opened fish market, part of a new year auction that has generated plenty of publicity and has become a tourist attraction in Japan. As the BBC reported, Kimura had already set the record for the highest price spent on a tuna at the auction, spending $1.4 million at the 2013 event, and more than doubled it for the tuna purchased this year.

The auction is famous for attracting fish wholesalers and sushi companies, competing to pay high prices for the best and largest fish at the pre-dawn auction. The tuna purchased by Kiyoshi Kimura is a species considered “critically endangered,” with the World Wildlife Fund noting that the bluefin tuna has suffered from overfishing and noted their popularity in Japan.

This has a detrimental effect on the ocean’s ecology as the giant tuna play an important role in the ecosystem, the organization noted.

“The Atlantic bluefin is a highly sought-after delicacy for sushi and sashimi in Asia — a single fish has sold for over $1.75 million! Driven by such high prices, fishermen use even more refined techniques to catch tuna. And the fish are disappearing as a result. Although tuna do provide food and livelihoods for people, they are more than just seafood. Tuna are a top predator in the marine food chain, maintaining a balance in the ocean environment.”

Japan has been criticized for its fishing habits, including vessels that have hunted and killed endangered whales and dolphins, the BBC report noted. The popularity of bluefin tuna in the country’s high-end sushi has put the bluefin at further risk, leading to animal rights groups to call for changes to the country’s fishing practices.

Despite the high price, Kimura said afterward he was happy with the purchase.

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“I bought a good tuna,” he told AFP after the auction. “The price was higher than originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna.”

The tuna is expected to be a sought-after item for sushi lovers willing to pay high prices for part of the famous fish, reports noted.

Kiyoshi Kimura has submitted the highest bid for a tuna at seven of the last eight new year auctions, the BBC noted.