Massive tuna nets $3.1 million at Japan auction

Purchase doubled previous record

By ALAA ELASSAR, CNN
Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty images via CNN

Kiyoshi Kimura, president of sushi restaurant chain Sushi-Zanmai, displays the record-setting tuna at his main restaurant in Tokyo.

(CNN) - Self-proclaimed Japanese "Tuna King" and sushi restaurant owner Kiyoshi Kimura paid a record $3.1 million (333.6 million yen) for a giant bluefin tuna at the New Year's auction at Tokyo's Toyosu fish market Saturday.

Kimura's purchase doubled the previous record of 155 million yen, set at the 2013 annual New Year's auction. The valuable and vulnerable fish tipped the scales at 612 pounds (278 kg).

The president of sushi restaurant chain Sushi-Zanmai said he was startled by how high the price went but not dissuaded from topping the record.

"I expected it (the tuna) will be between 30 million and 50 million yen ($276,421 - $460,702), or highest at 60 million yen ($552,843), but it ended up five times more expensive. Oh gosh!"

The massive bluefin tuna was caught near northern Japan's Aomori prefecture, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

"The tuna looks so tasty because it's fat and (looks) very fresh. It is a good tuna. But I think I did too much," Kimura said.

The sale came at the first New Year's auction following the closing of the renowned Tsukiji wholesale fish market, one of Tokyo's most popular travel destinations. Tsukiji was considered the biggest fish and seafood market in the world.

The market closed in October and moved to Toyosu, a new facility nearby.

Japan, the largest consumer of tuna in the world, often faces international criticism as the population of Pacific bluefin tuna dwindles. Because those fish do not breed regularly in captivity, scientists in Japan have worked decades to come up with ways to produce full-cycle farmed fish.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.