(TOKYO) — If the price of premium tuna is any indication of the country’s economic state, then Japan’s finances are in good order for 2012.
At Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market a bluefin tuna caught off the northern coast of Japan fetched a record 56.49 million yen, or $736,000, at the first auction of the year. Divided up, the nearly 600 pound tuna costs $1,238 per pound.
The winning bid went to Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., which operates a popular sushi restaurant chain. He beat out rival Hong Kong restaurateur Ricky Cheng, who had the winning bid the previous two years.
Cheng broke a 10-year record last year, when he shelled out $369,000 for a giant fish, caught off the coast of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.
“Instead of taking the fish overseas, I wanted the Japanese to eat quality tuna,” Kimura said. “The March 11 disasters and economic downturn [have hurt this country] but I wanted to lift spirits, and encourage others to help boost Japan’s economy, together.”
The tuna was caught off of Oma, in Aomori Prefecture, just north of the region devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
The record-breaking price comes as Japanese wholesalers face growing calls for tighter fishing rules amid a rapid decline in global bluefin tuna stock. The Japanese consume 80 percent of the world’s Pacific and Atlantic bluefin.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN
Holly Yan, Chuck Johnston and David Williams, CNN