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Stocks of bluefin caught in the Atlantic and Mediterranean plunged by 60 percent between 1997 and 2007 due to rampant, often illegal, overfishing and lax quotas. A 2010 stock assessment of the Pacific Bluefin indicated a declining population.
Japanese people eat 80 percent of the bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and much of the global catch is shipped to Japan for consumption. The fish's tender pink and red meat is prized for sushi and sashimi, but bluefin tuna stocks have fallen globally over the past 15 years amid overfishing.
A bluefin tuna sold for a record 1.76 million US dollars (£1.1 million) at a Tokyo auction on Saturday, nearly three times the previous high set last year.
The 222-kilogramme (489-pound) tuna was caught off northeastern Japan and transported to Tokyo's huge Tsukiji fish market.
The winning bidder, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., which operates the Sushi-Zanmai restaurant chain, said the price was "a bit high," but that he wanted to give Japan a "boost," according to Kyodo News agency.
Kimura also set the old record of 56.4 million yen at last year's New Year's auction, which tends to attract high bids as a celebratory way to kick off the new year - or get some publicity.