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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011

Whopper of a tuna has Toi port hopeful for a better future

HAKODATE, Hokkaido (Kyodo) The record price for a gigantic bluefin tuna has given the old port area of Toi, now a part of Hakodate in Hokkaido, high hopes that it can improve the brand value of the fish caught there.

News photo
Catch of a lifetime: Meat from the bluefin tuna that fetched a record 32.49 million yen is displayed Jan. 5 at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. KYODO PHOTO

The 342-kg lunker from Toi fetched ¥32.49 million in the first tuna auction this year at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, surpassing the previous record by more than ¥10 million.

Toi faces Oma, Aomori Prefecture, across the Tsugaru Strait. While Oma is famous for the quality — and the prices — of its tuna catches among Japanese ports, Toi is far less known.

"I was surprised at the size of the tuna. I was stunned again hearing the price at the (auction)," said fisherman Yuki Sakai, 56, who caught the tuna.

Masato Okuno, head of sales at the local fishermen's association, said Toi tuna is particularly fresh thanks to a new, fast — and secret — exsanguination process.

"This year, Toi has been featured in many media reports. This changed the impressions of consumers, who have mostly associated (pricey tuna) with Oma," said market consultant Ryujin Nishikawa.

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