A Sushi Restaurant Just Paid $323,000 for a Single Fish

The world’s biggest fish market, Tsukiji in Tokyo, has held its last New Year auction as it prepares for relocation. The first auction of 2018 saw a massive bluefin tuna fetch a hefty price of $323,000.

As the city prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the world’s largest fish market needs to relocate to make room. But before the 80-year-old market goes, it held one last new year’s auction, where restaurateurs come to bid on prized lots of Pacific bluefin tuna, and it is tradition for them to aggressively throw money at the first tuna of the new year.

The 405-kilogram tuna was landed in Oma, Aomori Prefecture. Hiroshi Onodera, the president of LEOC Co. Ltd which owns the “Ginza Onodera” sushi restaurant chain, coughed up the money for the premium Pacific bluefin tuna. “I’ve tried to win in the auction since last year, so I’m really happy,” said Onodera, whose company has restaurants in New York and Singapore as well as in Japan. “This is especially true because it’s the last year in Tsukiji.” Masahiro Takeuchi, the 66-year-old fisherman who caught the bluefin, said, “I am extremely happy. Oma’s maguro is the best in the world.”

“There were more tuna for sale than I expected this year. Nice and fat,” Yukita Yamaguchi, the person doing the bidding on behalf of Onodera, told the Nikkan Sports newspaper. “I was ready to pay 150 million yen. We’ll get 13,000 pieces of sushi out of it. That’s about 3,000 yen a piece.”

At the historic market’s final pre-dawn New Year’s auction on Friday, the bidder paid more than 36.5 million yen for the tuna. The price was just over half of last year’s winning bid of 72 million yen and well below the record 155 million yen paid in 2013.

Japan is the world’s biggest consumer of bluefin tuna. Surging consumption in the country and overseas has led to overfishing of the species, with experts warning it faces possible extinction. Japan has begun enforcing laws banning catches that exceed quotas. Violators are subject to fines or possible jail time, and Japan and other governments recently agreed on a plan to rebuild tuna stock.