TOKYO–A giant bluefin tuna sold for more than US$37,000 in the first auction of the year at a Tokyo fish market on Monday, as Japan faces growing pressure to cut back on consumption of the threatened fish. The 180.4-kilogram (380 pound) tuna, caught off Japan’s northern region of Aomori, fetched a winning bid of 4.51 million yen (US$37,480), said an official at the Tsukiji fish market. The bid marked the second consecutive decline at the annual new year sales, after a record 155.4 million yen was paid in 2013 �X driven by a bidding war led by a Hong Kong restaurant chain �X for a slightly larger fish of similar quality. Monday’s winner, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the firm behind the popular Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said he was ��surprised to win the bid at such a low price.�� ��But it’s the best quality,�� he told local media.
��I’m satisfied with buying the best one �X it has a good shape and great fat.�� The price decline was due to a ��lack of rival bids�� and a higher number of bluefins in the waters off Japan’s northern coast, a prime spot for tuna fishing, reports said. 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 fish’s fatty underbelly, can cost up to several thousand yen at high-end Tokyo restaurants. The growing popularity of Japanese sushi worldwide has also stoked demand. The auction came as Japan, the world’s largest bluefin tuna consumer, faces growing calls for a trade ban on the fish, which environmentalists warn is on its way to extinction. In November, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature updated its ��red list�� of threatened species, warning that surging global demand for the fish was placing ��unsustainable pressure�� on the species.