Japan was abuzz after a prized bluefin tuna weighing 489 pounds was sold for a record $1.76 million at the first auction of the year at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market on Saturday. Kiyoshi Kimura, who is president of Kiyomura Co. and the Sushi-Zanmai sushi restaurant chain, bought the massive fish at $3,600 per pound.
Let's repeat that, shall we? That's $1.76 million--or roughly the price of a mansion in most states--for a fish. That's one expensive hunk of sushi. Watch as Kimura escorts the fish to his restaurant amid a horde of media before cutting it up and serving the sushi-starved patrons:
Remarkably, the price paid by Kimura was well more than twice the amount he paid last year for a larger bluefin tuna. The 593-pound tuna Kimura purchased a year ago cost him $736,000, or roughly four times the U.S. median price for existing homes. What's next, a $2 million tuna? The Associated Press reported that Kimura said "the price was a bit high," but that he wanted to "encourage Japan," according to the Kyodo News agency.
It was unknown how much Kimura was selling a slice of sushi for, but last year he reportedly offered it at the incredibly reduced price of $5.45. Cost on a half-ounce slice of this bluefin tuna would be roughly $112.50, but that would be the break-even point. Perhaps Kimura figures the publicity is priceless. The fish, caught off northeastern Japan, is valued for its tender pink and red meat for sushi and sashimi. Some 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide is consumed by the Japanese.
How many more celebrations like these will take place is uncertain, considering the dramatic decline in the worldwide bluefin tuna stocks. The Associated Press has more on that topic: Stocks of all three bluefin species--the Pacific, Southern, and Atlantic--have fallen over the past 15 years amid overfishing. On Monday, an intergovernmental group is to release data on Pacific Bluefin stocks that environmentalists believe will likely show an alarming decline. ''Everything we're hearing is that there's no good news for the Pacific Bluefin,'' said Amanda Nickson, the director of the Washington-based Pew Environmental Group's global tuna conservation campaign. ''We're seeing a very high value fish continue to be overfished.'' Smaller quotas and tighter restrictions might curb future enthusiasm for big bluefin tuna such as the one Kimura celebrated. But for a few days, anyway, the Japanese will have their fill of $1.76 million worth of sushi. Again, that's 1.76 million dollars, or if you prefer, 154 million yen.