President of sushi restaurant chain Sushi-Zanmai, Kiyoshi Kimura, displays a 222-kg bluefin tuna at his main restaurant near Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market on January 5, 2013. AFP
TOKYO: A monster bluefin tuna sold for a record-breaking $1.8 million in the year's first auction at Japan's Tsukiji fish market on Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year.
The 222-kilogram (488-pound) fish, caught off Japan's northern city of Oma, fetched a winning bid of 155.4 million yen (about $1.8 million), said an official at the Tokyo fish market.
The figure dwarfs the previous high of 56.49 million yen paid at last year's inaugural auction at Tsukiji, a huge working market that features on many Tokyo tourist itineraries.
Saturday's winning bidder was Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the company that runs the popular Sushi-Zanmai chain, who also won the auction for last year's record-breaking bluefin.
"I wanted to meet expectations of my customers who said they wanted to eat Japan's best tuna again this year," Kimura was quoted by Jiji Press as saying after the intense pre-dawn bidding.
"With this good tuna, I hope to help cheer up Japan," Kimura said.
Based on the price paid -- around 700,000 yen per kilogram -- a single slice of sushi from the monster fish would cost diners as much as 30,000 yen.
But Kimura plans to sell it at a huge loss, for a more realistic price of up to 398 yen per portion, local media reported.
Bluefin is usually the most expensive fish available at Tsukiji.
Decades of overfishing have seen global tuna stocks crash, leading some Western nations to call for a ban on catching endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna.
Japan consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin catch, a highly prized sushi ingredient known in Japan as "kuro maguro" (black tuna) and dubbed by sushi connoisseurs the "black diamond" because of its scarcity.
A piece of "otoro" or fatty underbelly can cost some 2,000 yen at high-end Tokyo restaurants. (AFP)