Giant tuna fetches record $3.1 million at Japan auction

A wholesaler checking frozen tuna ahead of the new year's first auction at the Toyosu Market in Tokyo on Jan 5 2019

Sushi entrepreneur Kiyoshi Kimura paid the top price, which doubled the previous record of 155 million paid in 2013.

A prospective buyers inspect the quality of tuna before the first auction of the year at the newly opened Toyosu Market, new site of Tokyo's fish market, January 5, 2019, in Tokyo.

"The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did too much", Mr Kimura said.

"I didn't expect the price to get this high", said Kiyomura President Kiyoshi Kimura, but added, "We were able to buy a great tuna and hope our customers will enjoy it".

Bidding stopped at a whopping 333.6 million yen for the enormous 278-kilogramme (612-pound) fish - an endangered species - that was caught off Japan's northern coast.

In a roar of wholesalers surrounding the day's best tuna, an auctioneer hammered the top price as the Kimura side outbid his rival wholesaler in a thrilling head-to-head battle.

Hundreds of sushi lovers queued for a taste.

Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a beaming Kimura saying that he was surprised by the high price of tuna this year.

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The Japanese are the biggest consumer of bluefin tuna and experts warn the species could become extinct because of overfishing.

Last year's auction was the last at the famed Tsukiji market before it was relocated to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay.

A single piece of "otoro", or the fish's fatty underbelly, can cost dozens of dollars at high-end Tokyo restaurants.

The previous site at Tsukiji opened in 1935 and became the world's biggest fish market and a popular tourist attraction.

They say stocks of Pacific bluefin have depleted by 96% from pre-industrial levels.

The Tokyo metropolitan government decided in 2001 to relocate the aging Tsukiji market to Toyosu, but the initial plan to open the new market in 2016 was pushed back following the discovery of pollutants and subsequent decontamination work.

The move was delayed repeatedly due to concerns over soil contamination.

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