A giant bluefin tuna sold for 30% less than the sum paid last year at the Tsukiji market's first auction of the year in Tokyo on Monday.
The 180-kg tuna from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, fetched 4.51 million yen, down from the 7.36 million yen paid for a 230-kilogram bluefin tuna last year.
The winning bidder this year was once again Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the company that runs the popular Sushi-Zanmai chain. He said he was "surprised to win the bid at such a low price."
"But it's the best quality," he told local media. "I'm satisfied with buying the best one -- it has a good shape and great fat."
Kimura was also the winning bidder last year and in 2013 when the highest ever price of 155.4 million yen was paid for a 222-kg fish.
Bluefin is usually the most expensive fish available at Tsukiji, the biggest fish and wholesale seafood market in the world.
A piece of "otoro", or the fatty underbelly, can cost up to 2,000 yen at high-end Tokyo restaurants.
The price decline was in part due to the greater number of bluefin tuna available from Oma, Aomori Prefecture, that is a top site for tuna fishing.
After overheated bidding in 2013 saw prices skyrocket, concerns over excessive inflation saw other bidders stay away from vying with the Sushi-Zanmai chain.
Japan consumes three-quarters of the global bluefin catch, a highly prized sushi ingredient known in Japan as "kuro maguro" (black tuna) and dubbed by sushi connoisseurs the "black diamond" because of its scarcity.
The auction came as Japan, the world's largest bluefin tuna consumer, faces growing calls for a trade ban on the fish, which environmentalists warn is on its way to extinction.
In November, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature updated its "red list" of threatened species, warning that surging global demand for the fish was placing "unsustainable pressure" on the species.© Japan Today/AFP