For the last several years, we’ve been following the first-of-the-year Tsukiji Tuna Auction. In the past, this auction has served as a (often questionable) benchmark for the demand for Bluefin Tuna. At its peak, the price of Bluefin Tuna broke the scales at nearly $1,800,000. As the price continued to inflate, last year we even released an early warning to journalists covering the auction, cautioning them against drawing too many conclusions about the expectedly massive auction price. We we’re all caught off guard when the price of the first fish barely topped $70,000 dollars, kilo-for-kilo not even the most expensive fish sold that day.
Today, the numbers are in, and the first Bluefin of the year sold for a measly $37,500, barely enough to cover the cost to fuel for a fishing boat.
The era of the million-dollar tuna is over.
This is a good thing. When a single fish has the potential to sell for enough money to fund an entire fishing operation, fishermen will go to the ends of the earth to find that last great fish. When the demand for that fish goes down, then the prospected of hunting for a single rare species becomes far too risky a venture to stake you livelihood on.
Beyond any regulations or concerted conservation initiatives, markets shape fisheries. Let’s hope this moment is the turning point for the endangered Bluefin Tuna.
Update: The Guardian has a significantly less optimistic take on the latest auction.