Japan's sushi king pays record price for bluefin tuna

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"It's the best tuna". This year, the tycoon took back his crown as the highest bidder at the annual fish market, which he held for seven years in a row, before Yukitaka Yamaguchi, head of wholesaler Yamayuki Group, borrowed it last year.

"The quality of the tuna I bought is the best", he stated as quoted by Japanese broadcaster NHK, adding that the high prices surprised him.

The final New Year's auction at Tsukiji in 2018 saw a tuna fetch 36.45 million yen.

Kiyoshi Kimura often pays over the odds for his beloved and endangered fish, and it was no different at Tokyo's new fish market for the first auction of 2019.

Bluefin tuna is severely overfished and is listed as a vulnerable fish by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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A single piece of "otoro", or the fish's fatty underbelly, can cost dozens of dollars at high-end Tokyo restaurants.

Last year's auction was the last at the famed Tsukiji market before it was relocated to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay.

Decades-old Tsukiji was one of Japan's most popular tourist destinations as well as the world's biggest fish market.

The new market at Toyosu hopes to attract tourists who previously visited Tsukiji.

"The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is", said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, wearing white rubber boots, said: "I sincerely hope this market will be loved by many people".

The relocation of the market was a lengthy and controversial process.

In contrast, the new market, located around two kilometres to the east at Toyosu, boasts state-of-the-art refrigeration facilities and is almost twice as big as Tsukiji.

The relocation was delayed by nearly two years as Tokyo had to deal with soil and air contamination and other issues at Toyosu, which formerly housed a gas production plant.

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