Bluefin Tuna Auctioned For Record \$1.7m

A bluefin tuna has sold for a record \$1.76m (£1.1m) at a Tokyo auction - nearly three times the previous high.

In the year's first auction at Tokyo's sprawling Tsukiji fish market, the 222kg (489lb) tuna caught off north eastern Japan sold for 155.4m yen.

The fish's tender pink and red meat is prized for sushi and sashimi. The best slices of fatty bluefin - called "o-toro" - can sell for 2,000 yen (\$24) per piece at upmarket Tokyo sushi bars.

The Japanese eat 80% of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and much of the global catch is shipped to Japan for consumption.

The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, the president of Kiyomura Co, which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, admitted "the price was a bit high," but he explained he wanted to "encourage Japan".

He went on to serve the fish to customers on Saturday.

However environmentalists have warned that stocks of the fish are being depleted worldwide amid strong demand for sushi.

"Everything we're hearing is that there's no good news for the Pacific bluefin," said Amanda Nickson, the director of the Washington-based Pew Environmental Group's global tuna conservation campaign.

"We're seeing a very high value fish continue to be overfished."

Stocks of bluefin caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean plunged by 60% between 1997 and 2007 due to rampant, often illegal, overfishing and lax quotas.

Although there has been some improvement in recent years, experts say the outlook for the species is still fragile.