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Top sales prices were down at this year’s first bluefin tuna auction at Tokyo’s Toyosu wholesale market amid growing concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan.

The most popular item in the New Year’s auction, which began at 5:10 a.m. was a 211-kilogram bluefin tuna caught off Oma, Aomori Prefecture, which sold for ¥16.88 million, down some 20% from the level at last year’s first auction. The price of the top bluefin tuna at a New Year’s auction fell below ¥20 million for the first time in six years.

Average prices at this year’s auction were relatively low partly because the number of tuna put up for sale totaled some 230, nearly double the previous year’s level, and participants felt hesitant to bid up amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The top tuna was bought by intermediate wholesaler Yamayuki for the second straight year.

“I hope all of us will work hard for survival this year,” a senior official of a wholesaler told participants in a speech before the start of the auction.

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