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Endangerment, Be Damned: Giant Tuna Sells for Giant Sum at Japanese Fish Market

Bluefin tuna: the world's most expensive sashimi.
Bluefin tuna: the world's most expensive sashimi.
National Geographic

Environmentalists are telling us that the bluefin tuna population in many parts of the world is more or less screwed, but that hasn't stopped the Japanese from rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Case in point: earlier today, a giant bluefin tuna was auctioned off for $177,000 at Japan's (and the world's) largest fish market.

The 513-pound fish was purchased and divvied up by the owners of a Japanese sushi restaurant and a Hong Kong sushi bar. It had been caught off of the northern coast of Japan, and was one of 570 auctioned off at Tokyo's Tsukiji market. Its price was the highest paid for bluefin in almost a decade.

Despite the flashy price tag, tuna consumption has actually declined in Japan, which is still coping with the effects of its recession. The Japanese consume some 80 percent of the bluefin caught in the Atlantic and Pacific, a number that has come under attack from environmental groups like the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, which has set the annual catch limit in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean 40 percent below previous quotas.

All of which means that bluefin could eventually become so expensive that it will be unavailable to all but the wealthiest Japanese, an idea that environmentalists welcome even as restaurateurs pray for the band to play on.


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