Bigeye tuna price rise continues in Japan

Published on
June 23, 2017

The average wholesale price of frozen bigeye tuna in the first week of June at Tokyo’s Tsukiji market was about 25  percent higher than in the same period last year, at 1,224 yen (USD 10.96, EUR 9.82) per kilogram, the Nippon Keizai Shimbun reported. 

Tuna prices usually rise at year-end on New Year holiday consumption, but this price level already exceeds that of December 2016 by 0.8 percent.

Chronic overfishing of bigeye continues in major fishing grounds around the world, and the volume handled at Tsukiji has declined. In the first week of June it was down 20 percent from a year ago, at 55 metric tons. 

The retail price is also 20 to 30 percent higher than the same period last year, at 398 to 498 yen (USD 3.56 to 4.46, EUR 3.19 to 3.99) per 100 grams in Tokyo area supermarkets. 

As more farmed bluefin comes onto the market, and as bigeye numbers decline, the price gap between bluefin and bigeye continues to narrow.

Skipjack tuna, which can be substituted for bigeye as a “red meat” or lean tuna, is also in short supply, as fishing in the mid-Pacific runs from spring to early summer and is not yet complete. As a result of both species of lean tuna being more expensive, some supermarkets are substituting other items, like conger eel, in their sushi sets.

However, fresh skipjack soon will be more plentiful in Japan, as 14 June was the opening of the skipjack tuna (or katsuo), season, with fishermen in the Northeast Honshu port of Kesennuma landing good catches, according to reports.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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