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Sunday, January 05, 2014

The High Price of Tuna

 "You have to wonder what the last fish is going to cost."

The Annual Bluefin Tuna Auction just took place at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo with the priciest fish commanding a nearly US$70,000 price tag for a 507 lb bluefin tuna. Though a steep price, it was substantially less that last years record setting $1.76 million.

These high prices don't necessarily reflect the quality of the fish nor do they reflect the actual market prices. Restauranteurs from Japan and Hong Kong bid one tuna to a high media grabbing publicity stunt of a price, reflecting the price of advertising more than tuna prices. This happens on the first auction of the year. It's more Japan vs China than an actual market driven auction.

80% of the worldwide consumption takes place in Japan though demand is increasing globally for these imperiled, considered endangered by many, pelagic fish. The International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean claim the bluefin tuna population is below 4% of its population.

According to Amanda Nickson, The Pew Environment Group's director for global tuna conservation, "Over 90 percent of bluefin tuna are caught before they reach reproductive age. You have to wonder if this remotely sustainable." Adding, "You have to wonder what the last fish is going to cost."

The high bidder at this first auction of the year gets more than an overpriced tuna for his bid. It comes with worldwide free advertising on every TV station, newspaper, magazine, website, and social media network that carries the story. Pretty cheap advertising when you consider it.

Other accounts of this high priced auction most often mention the restaurant's and owner's names. I deliberately left out that information. I don't see the need to further encourage the exploitation of a threatened and over-fished species. 

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