A single tuna fish sold for $3.1 million

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/28/a-single-tuna-fish-sold-for-3.html


I believe it. Bluefin Tuna are becoming scarce. Awhile back we watched the excellent doco “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. Towards the end of that, comments turned to not just tuna disappearing, but other sea creatures on sushi menus.


I have a relative who runs a fishing outfit out of Cape Hatters, N.C. and he’s been catching, shipping and selling blue and yellow fin tuna to the Japanese for a number of years now. He’s making bank. I’ve never heard him mention fetching anywhere near $3 million before. I think we’d hear about that!


This happens every year. The first tuna sold for the year is auspicious and sells for a ridiculously high price. The second (and subsequent) tunas sell at more reasonable prices. It’s superstition and tradition. It has nothing to do with how rare or good the fish is (although the folks running the auction do try to pick a nice fish to be the ceremonial first sold).

Yet every year the multi-million dollar tuna story crops up with few mentioning that this is a ceremonial purchase, not a representative purchase. The lucky fisherman gets his $3M, a “lucky” restaurateur gets to serve dignitaries sushi at a loss for the honor of being the buyer.

Part of the superstition is that the selling price for that first tuna is indicative of how the economy will do in the coming year – a high price means a good economic year, a low price means poor times ahead. So there is a desire to bid the price up as high as you can afford to ensure a good year. Of course, how high people can afford is a function of how the economy is already doing, so the superstition may be self-fulfilling.


It’s not fishermen who put these things up for auction, it’s those buyers he’s selling to. This is what the Japanese buyers do with the largest and highest quality fish. So the fishermen who caught this fish likely got paid a tiny fraction of what the ultimate sale price was.

And the bulk of the record setting fish the last few decades have been from the North Atlantic fisheries. The Pacific fishery doesn’t produce many Giants, and only in the North. The Atlantic fisheries formerly had a large incidence of Giants, especially numerous and large in the North, off the coast of New England and Canada.

The Japanese demand for these big breeders specifically is a huge driver in the on going collapse of the tuna fishery here. Big Eye are almost unheard of, and the giant blue find have gotten so rare that any fish above a certain size goes for incredible money in Asia.


Indeed. His guys got paid diddly. He on the other hand did well selling to buyers.


And those buyers are probably making 100x what he is.

But he should pay “his guys” better. Deck handing on a tuna boat is high paying work, they won’t be his guys long if he’s really paying them diddly.


Might it have been auctioned at Toyosu Market? I believe Tsukiji relocated last year.

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WTF is it the last one?

So how many wishes did it offer the buyer?


So… price is based on mercury content?

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It does seem high. But if you mix in some celery, some onions, plenty of mayo, etc. You can bring it down to about $120 an ounce.


Not only does this make me wonder how far down the quality scale the canned version must be, but also how much lower it goes before it winds up as cat food. :thinking: :fishing_pole_and_fish: :cat:


The cans are entirely different, smaller, more common species.

And we don’t seem to sell them as fresh ever, seem to go right to the cannery. Which is a shame I’ve had both fresh, good stuff.


I live in southern California and can get fresh albacore, thankfully.
Though my favorite of what’s readily available is grouper.
What I miss being able to get here easily like when I lived in the Bay Area is king salmon.
When it does show up, it’s ridiculously expensive, but I gotta have it.


It is a status symbol which does not reflect the value of the fish

sold at auction in Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market

At first sight, I read ‘famous Fukushima fish market’, there, imagining the tuna to be considered ‘spawn of Gojira’, given such inflated value.

And it has to be eaten within three days.

I’m convinced albacore is not fit for human consumption. Possibly because it’s the last fish we’d ever get fresh in the upper-middle of the US. What’s sold in cans is grotesquely over-cooked, but still smells past the ‘sell by’ date.

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Its around in the right spots over here. But its not exactly common. Both are pretty popular as fresh fish outside the US. And skipjack is considered just about the only sustainable tuna.

King salmon likewise, you can get it. But it takes looking and costs.