Japan's sushi king pays record price for bluefin tuna

Wholesalers checking frozen tuna lined up in rows ahead of the new year's first auction at the Toyosu Market in Tokyo on Jan 5 2019

Japan's sushi king pays record price for bluefin tuna

"However, since I was able to buy a good one, I'd like customers to try it", Kimura told reporters.

Kimura has been a frequent visitor to the markets and for the past few years has been the victor of the annual auction.

Kiyoshi Kimura often pays over the odds for his beloved and endangered fish, and it was no different at Tokyo's new fish market for the first auction of 2019.

"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.

Later in the day sushi chefs sliced up the giant fish with special knives resembling Japanese swords at Kimura's main restaurant just outside Tsukiji, where demolition work is under way.

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

The fish normally sells for up to £30 a pound but the price rises to over £160 a pound near the year's end, especially for prized catches from Oma in northern Japan.

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

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

Experts warn that the bluefin faces possible extinction, with stocks of Pacific variety depleted by 96 percent from their pre-industrial levels.

The successful bidder was Kiyomura Corp., the Tokyo-based operator of sushi restaurant chain Sushizanmai, which came out on top at Tsukiji for six consecutive New Year's auctions through 2017.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, wearing white rubber boots, said: "I sincerely hope this market will be loved by many people". The move was delayed repeatedly because of concerns over soil contamination.

The Toyosu market took over the operations of the world-famous Tsukiji market in the capital's Chuo Ward last October.

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