The head of a sushi restaurant chain in Japan has paid $736,000 (56.49 million yen) for a single 593 pound bluefin tuna, at the first Tsukiji market auction of the year in Tokyo. This was nearly double the highest price paid last year.
The buyer, Kiyoshi Kimura, said he bought the fish for that amount to help boost Japan’s post-disaster economy, and to help raise the nation’s spirits. The tuna was apparently caught north of the tsunami disaster zone, off the coast of Oma, in Aomori prefecture.
Kimura had the expensive fish cut into 10,000 pieces and sold at the restaurant chain’s usual price of between 134 and 148 yen (about $5), instead of the 5,649 ($74) needed to even break even in the deal.
According to Bloomberg, Japan eats more fish per capita than any other industrialized country, at 56.7 kilograms (128 pounds) per year. The global average in 17.1 kilograms, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Now, this whopper price for a single bluefin tuna is supposedly a charitable act on the part of the buyer. However, as I see it, it isn’t at all charitable – not by a long shot. The first important point is that although bluefin tuna aren’t officially listed as an endangered species, they must be pretty damn close to it. Bluefin tuna is considered “a species of concern”.
In addition, back in October of 2011, we reported that an international scientific study found that more than double the allowed quota of bluefin tuna is being traded.
How is selling the first bluefin tuna of the year at auction for a massively high price, and making a big song and dance about it, going to help that situation?
The way that markets seem to work for wild, declining animal species, is that the fewer in number there are, the more expensive they become, and the more prized they are. The market doesn’t care how many are left, until they are all gone that is, and then the market just turns its attention to the next species. Please do correct me if you think I’m wrong there.
Further, the buyer of this particular fish paid a lot, sure, but he got a hell of a lot of mostly positive publicity out of the deal. Just google the story and see how much mention is made of the plight of the declining bluefin in this story? Not much. Not much at all. It’s all song and dance about how great it is, and how charitable the act is.
$736,ooo is not a bad price at all for the buyer, considering the high costs of advertising. Remember the fish was bought by a sushi restaurant chain. I wonder how much positive, free coverage this got on tv news in japan?
So hey world, let’s take it easy on the bluefin tuna, they could certainly catch a break. This sort of thing doesn’t help. We’ll regret it when they are all gone, but it’ll be too late then.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Am I being too harsh here?
Image CC licensed by cchen: Bluefin tuna burger