Asia

Japan tuna nets a high bid at new year Tokyo auction

  • 5 January 2016
  • From the section Asia
A wholesaler inspects frozen tuna before the first auction of the year at the Tsukiji fish market Image copyright EPA

A 200kg (440lb) endangered bluefin tuna sold for 14 million yen ($117,283; £80,000) at the first auction of the year at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market.

It is the fifth time in a row the buyer, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of a sushi restaurant chain, won the bid.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The fatty belly fetches the highest price in restaurants

New year auctions often fetch higher prices than normal in Japan, because the event is considered auspicious for business.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One boy got to try his hand at inspecting the frozen fish before the auction

The famous fish market is moving to a new facility in November, making the auction the last at its current site.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The famous Tsukiji market building is old and cramped

While Mr Kimura's winning bid was far higher than the price of 4.51m yen he paid last year, it was a long way short of the record 155 million yen he paid in 2013. The extraordinary bidding that year was criticised by many for its excess, prompting the sharp decline in price the following year.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Potential buyers inspected the fish before bidding began

Before ending up at the 80-year-old market, the tuna was caught in northern Japan, off the coast of Oma, in Aomori prefecture.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption While tourists flock to the market's tuna auctions, they are kept a distance from the bidding itself

Japan consumes the overwhelming majority of bluefin tuna worldwide, although as the popularity of sushi has spread, demand from elsewhere has also increased, putting even more pressure on the populations of all three species - Pacific, Southern and Atlantic bluefin.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some took this year's increased sale price as a bad sign for the species as a whole

Environmentalists warn the fish is on its way to extinction and some want a ban on its trade.

"Given the already dire state of the population - decimated to just four percent of unfished levels - it is of particular concern that the auction price is rising again," Amanda Nickson, director of Global Tuna Conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a statement.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The market is crowded but full of character, which some fear may be lost in the new facility

The market's move to the new site in Tokyo bay had long been delayed after toxic chemicals were found in the soil at the new location, formerly used by a coal gasification plant.

The current Tsukiji market will be replaced by a waterfront park, shopping plaza and ferry passenger terminal.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A rare treat that is getting rarer

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