Bluefin tuna, a prized fish for high-end sushi establishments, is cheaper than usual this year because of good hauls off Aomori Prefecture and other fishing areas, as well as the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Fishers in Aomori, known for its Oma bluefin tuna, are seeing good hauls, but prices at markets in Tokyo have plummeted due to a decline in demand from restaurants hit hard by the coronavirus fallout.
Autumn and winter are the best fishing season for Oma and other bluefin tuna caught in the Tsugaru Strait between Aomori and Hokkaido. This month, shipments to the Toyosu wholesale food market in Tokyo of domestic bluefin tuna, most from Aomori, have been on par with those from a year ago, which was larger than in ordinary years.
While over half of the bluefin tuna caught in September last year were around 30 kilograms each, the number of tuna weighing over 100 kilograms has increased this year. “The tuna is getting fattier,” an auctioneer from a wholesale company at the market said.
Despite the high volume and improving quality, wholesale prices of domestic bluefin tuna at Toyosu in September are 20 percent to 30 percent lower than those in the same month last year. An intermediate wholesaler at the market said that “eateries are refraining from stocking up” due to falling demand for eating out because of the prolonged coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, fish stores seeking to meet growing demand for consumption at home are increasingly selling Oma tuna as a key offering.
Earlier this month, the red meat from Oma tuna for sashimi was sold for around ¥1,000 per 100 grams at the fish section of a department store in Tokyo, some 30 percent cheaper than ordinary domestic cultured tuna.
Oma tuna once fetched over ¥300 million per head in the New Year’s auction at the Toyosu market.
Although the prices are still higher than those of bigeye tuna, which is sold mainly at supermarkets, an official of a fish store in Tokyo said that now is the time for people to enjoy the high-quality bluefin tuna at home before prices skyrocket in the winter, when the fish is most in season.