It's a $35,000 catch

It took six men 30 minutes to cleave the meat from this $35,000 bluefin tuna on Monday- all in the name of good luck for the year for a Japanese restaurant.

Itacho Sushi Singapore conducted its sixth annual fish-cutting ceremony at JCube, Jurong East, on Monday, where 100 pieces of the fish, served as sushi, were given away to the public.

The 94.5kg wild bluefin tuna was flown in for $1,500 from the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan, where a team went to bid for it at the first tuna auction of the year on Sunday.

Director of Itacho Sushi, Ms Zoey Tan, said bringing in a fish from the New Year auction brings prosperity and good luck.

"In Japan, fish-cutting is a very old tradition. It takes a lot of skill on the chef's part, and it signifies the kick off to a good year ahead," she said.

The best bluefin tuna at the auction, "Number One", weighed 230kg and was sold for $89,000. Ms Tan said the one Itacho Sushi bought was this year's "Number Two".

"The most we've paid for a Bluefin at the auctions was $180,000 in 2009. It was 220kg, the biggest we've ever got," she said.

Highest grade

Itacho Sushi's head chef Hiroyuki Yamamoto said: "Bluefin tuna is considered the highest grade of fish in the world. It is so much better than other tunas, like the yellowfin and the bigeye."

Mr Yamamoto, who has been in the trade for 30 years, said bluefin tastes better and is less oily than its lesser cousins.

"Normally, a piece of bluefin tuna sushi is $30. But we are serving (some of) it free here as a thank you to our customers in Singapore," he said.

Ms Yvonne Quah, 38, who got to taste the sushi, said: "The bluefin meat is more tender and tastes better than regular tuna sushi." Mr Yamamoto estimates he can make about 5,000 pieces of sushi from their bluefin - that is $150,000 in takings.

Ms Tan said the rest of the fish will be sold at all seven of their Singapore outlets from on Monday.

"The fish will keep for about a week, but it usually sells out within three to four days."

All about bluefin tuna

The bluefin tuna was last year's most expensive fish in the world, selling for a record breaking US$1.76 million (S$2.3 million) for a 221kg specimen at the Tsukiji market.

The bluefin tuna industry is estimated to be worth $9.1 billion.

It contains much higher levels of mercury than other fish.

It is a bony fish that can reach up to a length of 3m and a weight of 540kg.

It can swim as fast as up to 70kmh.

Scientists estimate that the Pacific bluefin tuna population has declined by 96.4 per cent since humans began fishing it decades ago.


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