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Giant tuna sells for $526 per pound

The $396,000 paid for this 754-pound bluefin, prized by sushi chefs, set a record at the world’s largest wholesale fish market. The $396,000 paid for this 754-pound bluefin, prized by sushi chefs, set a record at the world’s largest wholesale fish market. (Jiji Press/ AFP/ Getty Images)
Associated Press / January 6, 2011

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TOKYO — A giant bluefin tuna fetched a record price of nearly $396,000 yesterday in the first auction of the year at the world’s largest wholesale fish market.

The price for the 754-pound tuna beat the previous record, set in 2001 when a 445-pound fish sold for $242,512, a spokesman for the Tsukiji market said.

“It was an exceptionally large fish,’’ said Yutaka Hasegawa. “But we were all surprised by the price.’’

The tuna was bought and shared by the same duo who won the bidding for last year’s top fish: the owners of Kyubey, an upscale sushi restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district, and Itamae Sushi, a casual, Hong Kong-based chain.

Reporters thronged Hong Kong entrepreneur Ricky Cheng after his big win, which reflects the growing popularity of sushi around the world, particularly in Asia.

“I was nervous when I arrived in Tokyo yesterday, but I am relieved now,’’ he said after the auction.

The giant tuna, caught off the coast of northern Japan, was among 538 shipped in from around the world for the auction.

The record-setting price translates to about $526 per pound.

Japan is the world’s biggest consumer of seafood, with Japanese eating 80 percent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefins caught. The two tuna species are the most sought-after by sushi lovers.

Japanese wholesalers, however, face growing calls for tighter fishing rules amid declining tuna stocks worldwide.

In November, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas voted to cut the bluefin fishing quota in the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean by about 4 percent.

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