This March 5, 2007 file photo shows workers harvesting bluefin tuna from Maricultura's tuna pens near Ensenada, Mexico. (File,AP Photo/Chris Park)
Business is booming for the Japanese fish market with a sale of a single tuna clocking in at a whopping 1.7 million USD (155 million JPY) at the New Year opening tuna auction in Tokyo on Saturday (January 5).
More than triple the price of last year's highest bid, one kilo of the northern Japan, Aomori prefecture tuna will cost sea-foodies nearly 8,000 USD (700,000 JPY).
Previous years have seen an increase of Chinese buyers, but this year the highest bidder was the owner of popular sushi chain 'Sushi Zanmai' located nation-wide Kiyoshi Kimura.
Kimura is quoted by Japanese national broadcaster NHK as saying that while the colour and lustre are of the highest quality, the price did end up a bit high that even he was surprised.
The pricey tuna was immediately transported from the Tokyo-based Tsukiji fish market several blocks to a branch of Sushi Zanmai where some customers were lucky to get a slice of the celebrity blue fin.
Blue fin, the highest grade of tuna, is known for its tender meat.
The fish auction began early from 5a.m. as hundreds of buyers and wholesalers gathered before sunrise to show off and purchase their latest fresh catch.
Smashing all previous records, this sale may mean that the marine products industry could be looking at a profitable 2013.
"Last year I stood here in the same place to report that there was no significant change in the marine product industry, but this year there will be a change. With the motions set in place by the recent government election last year to this year, we have already been able to surpass the previous prices," Daiichi Marine president Hiroyuki Taguchi said in his opening remarks to media gathered in the chilly warehouse.
Buoyed by the strong demand within the domestic market, the bluefin had a bumpy 2012 as low levels of nuclear radiation from tsunami-damaged Fukushima power plant turned up in blue fin tuna off the California coast casting doubt over whether the priced marine food was safe to eat or not.
Tuna is one of the fish dearest to Japanese hearts, and bluefin one of the most prized of tunas, with Japan consuming over half of the world's bluefin even as supplies dwindle and fishing quotas are tightened.
The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is a popular tourist destination attracting hundreds of visitors daily.
The stalls of the market trade millions of dollars of fish and vegetables a day.