The $100,000 Tuna
It may not look like much but the 282-pound Japanese bluefin tuna shown above brought in more than $100,000 at auction recently. Two sushi bar owners, one in Hong Kong and one in Japan, paid $104,700 for the big fish at a Tokyo fish auction on Monday. The price was about ten times the average price and the highest in nearly a decade. The first sale of the new year traditionally brings hight prices but the prices were even higher because of a shortage of high quality Oma bluefin. There were just three available at the Tsukiji market compared with 41 last year. A smaller imported bluefin caught off the cost of the U.S. sold for $15,400. Members of international tuna conservation organizations have agreed to cut their bluefin catch quota for 2009 by 20 percent to 22,000 tons which could mean more high prices this year.
For a great behind-the-scenes look at the world of tuna sales, I recommend The Sushi Economy by Sasha Issenberg, it's got some fantastic descriptions of the chaos and commerce in Japan's tuna auctions. It also explains that the tuna's tail is sliced off (as shown above) at auction to expose the quality of the flesh.