Kiyoshi Kimura Japan bluefin tuna Tokyo
Kiyoshi Kimura (C), president of Japanese sushi chain Sushizanmai, prepares to cut his 613-pound bluefin tuna during the first auction of the Toyosu Market at his head restaurant at Tsukiji in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday. (Kimimasa Mayama/EPA-EFE photo)

TOKYO (UPI) — A sushi restaurant owner paid $3.1 million for a 613-pound bluefin tuna at a Japanese auction Saturday, a record price reflecting the growing scarcity of the prized fish.

Kiyomura Corp. made the winning bid, which equated to more than $5,000 per pound. The company operates the Sushizanmai restaurant chain in Japan. It was the first auction to be held at the Toyosu fish market in Tokyo.

The company paid 10 times more than the price for a smaller fish at last year’s auction. It’s the highest price ever paid for bluefin tuna at the auction. Bidders traditionally pay more at the first auction of the year.

Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of the restaurant chain, said he didn’t expect the price to climb so high.

“The tuna looks so tasty and very fresh, but I think I did [pay] a little too much,” he said.

Fisherman Ryoichi Fujieda, 64, caught the fish in Oma, Aomori prefecture. He was surprised by the selling price.

“A local intermediate wholesaler called me about the auction. The amount was so big I thought he must have gotten the digits wrong,” he said.

The previous record price paid for a bluefish tuna at the auction was $1.43 million for a 489-pound fish. That works out to nearly $3,000 a pound.

Overfishing in the region has led to smaller bluefin tuna catches in recent years.

“The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,” Jamie Gibbon, associate manager of global tuna conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Washington Post. “Its population has fallen to less than 3.5 percent of its historic size and overfishing still continues today.”

Reporting by Danielle Haynes

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