By Kwiyeon Ha
TOKYO (Reuters)

In the final New Year’s auction at Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market on Friday, the owner of an international sushi restaurant shelled out more than $300,000 for a prime bluefin tuna and said he was “very happy” with the result

The world’s largest fish market, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist sites, is set to relocate later this year to clear the way for a road needed for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

 

Wholesalers check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year's auction in Tokyo
Wholesalers check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year’s auction in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

Hiroshi Onodera, the president of LEOC Co. Ltd which owns the “Ginza Onodera” restaurant chain, paid 36.45 million yen ($323,195) for a 405-kg (890 lb) premium Pacific bluefin tuna – around 90,000 yen per kg.

 

Wholesalers check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year's auction in Tokyo
Wholesalers check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year’s auction in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

The price was just over half that of last year’s winning bid of 72 million yen and well below the record 155 million yen paid in 2013.

“I’ve tried to win in the auction since last year, so I’m really happy,” said Onodera, whose company has restaurants in New York and Singapore as well as in Japan. “This is especially true because it’s the last year in Tsukiji.”

 

A wholesaler checks the quality of frozen tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year's auction in Tokyo
A wholesaler checks the quality of frozen tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year’s auction in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

Tuna is prized around the world for its use in sushi, but experts warn growing demand has made it an endangered species.

“The high price paid today for a single Pacific bluefin tuna should not distract from the dire status of the species, which has been depleted by more than 97 percent by years of overfishing,” said Jamie Gibbon, a Pacific bluefin tuna expert for the Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement.

 

Kiyomura Co's President Kimura, who runs a chain of sushi restaurants Sushi Zanmai, poses with a 190 kg bluefin tuna, priced with a 30.4 million yen bid at the fish market's first tuna auction this year at his sushi re
Kiyomura Co’s President Kiyoshi Kimura (C), who runs a chain of sushi restaurants Sushi Zanmai, poses with a 190 kg bluefin tuna, priced with a 30.4 million yen bid at the fish market’s first tuna auction this year at his sushi restaurant outside Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

“If countries continue to exceed their catch limits…the very survival of the species will be threatened.”

The 80-year-old Tsukiji market draws tens of thousands of visitors a year to its warren of stalls with exotic species of fish and fresh sushi, part of a tourism boom that is a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic revival plan.

 

Fishmongers hold a 405 kg bluefin tuna as they cut it in front of their store outside Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo
Fishmongers hold a 405 kg bluefin tuna as they cut it in front of their store outside Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

“This will truly be the final auction here, so I made sure I came to watch,” said Mitsuko Yamaguchi, the 61-year-old owner of a seafood store.

 

(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Kim Coghill)

 

 

Wholesalers greet as they check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year's auction in Tokyo
Wholesalers greet as they check the quality of fresh tuna displayed at the Tsukiji fish market before the New Year’s auction in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

An auctioneer raises his hand as he starts the New Year's auction of the frozen tuna at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo
An auctioneer raises his hand as he starts the New Year’s auction of the frozen tuna at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, Japan, January 5, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

 

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