A 278kg bluefin tuna has sold for a record 333.6 million yen (£2.5m) in the first auction of the new year in Tokyo’s new fish market.
The winning bid for the prized but threatened species at the predawn auction on Saturday was more than double the 2013 annual new year auction highest bid.
It was paid by Kiyomura Corp, whose owner Kiyoshi Kimura runs the Sushi Zanmai chain.
Mr Kimura has often won the annual auction in the past.
Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a beaming Mr Kimura saying that he was surprised by the high price of tuna this year. But he added: “The quality of the tuna I bought is the best.”
Last year’s auction was the last in Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji market before it moved to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay.
Japanese are the biggest consumers of the torpedo-shaped bluefin tuna, and surging consumption here and overseas has led to overfishing of the species.
Experts warn it faces possible extinction, with stocks of Pacific bluefin depleted by 96% from their pre-industrial levels.
“The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
There are signs of progress toward protecting the bluefin, and Japan and other governments have backed plans to rebuild Pacific bluefin stocks, with a target of 20% of historic levels by 2034.
Decades-old Tsukiji was one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations as well as the world’s biggest fish market.
The new market opened in October.