Man Buys One Fish for More Than Half a Million Dollars
I don’t know anything can quite prepare you for walking into the Tsukiji fish market. Sitting on the edge of Tokyo Bay in the southeast of the city, the market is bustling with crowds of people… and even more fish. It’s the world’s largest fish market, selling more than 660,000 tons of seafood per year – more than double that of its nearest competitor, a market in Mexico City.
Each year, the market hosts a Tuna Auction. It’s a national spectacle visitors travel across the country to see. The auction is exactly what you imagine: selling unusually huge fish to proud owners, usually famed restaurateurs and the Japanese elite.
One frequent participant is sushi mogul and owner of Kiyomura Co, Kiyoshi Kimura. At this year’s auction, Kimura made international news when he bought a 467-pound Bluefin tuna for 74.2 million yen (which is about $642, 000 USD, to save you the Google).
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
This went down in the record books as the second highest bid at the market. The first, which was also made by Kimura, was $1.8 million USD for a 489-pound tuna – a bid he deemed “a bit high”.
While these make for a rather flashy headline (did you click just to see the fish?), bluefin tuna are an endangered species, and conservationists are voicing concern about their rapid consumption.
Bluefin tuna are the most popular fish to eat in Japan – they even call them “the king of fish” – and as such, the country is accountable for 80% of the global catch. Bluefin are the largest of the tuna family and can live up to 40 years. They are built for speed, their sleek bodies darting through the ocean with surprising vigor.
But most importantly, the ocean needs them.
“Tuna are a top predator in the marine food chain, maintaining a balance in the ocean environment,” the World Wildlife Foundation’s website explains. “Population declines have been largely driven by the demand for this fish in high end sushi markets.”
“When you sell fish for this amount of money, that exacerbates those problems,” says Lee Crockett of Pew Environment Group. You can bet fishermen all over the world are going to say, ‘Boy, I’d like to sell fish for that amount of money.’”
The issue is slowly seeping into global conversations about ocean conservation, and talks have lead Japan to agree to cut its fishing of juvenile (too young to reproduce) Bluefin in half – a formidable start to preserving this endangered species.
*Img via Issei Kato/Reuters