The ‘Sushi King’ of Japan has paid a record 333.6 million yen (£2.5 million) for a bluefin tuna.

Kiyoshi Kimura often pays over the odds for his beloved and endangered fish, and it was no different at Tokyo’s new fish market for the first auction of 2019.

He spent more than twice the previous record of £1.1 million, which he paid in 2013.

Kimura runs the Sushi Zanmai chain and said he hopes his customers will get to enjoy the 612-pound (278-kilogram) tuna.

‘I bought a good tuna,’ he told AFP after the auction.

‘The price was higher than originally thought, but I hope our customers will eat this excellent tuna.’

The new year auction prices are way above usual for bluefin tuna.

The fish normally sells for up to £30 a pound but the price rises to over £160 a pound near the year’s end, especially for prized catches from Oma in northern Japan.

Last year’s auction was the last at the famed Tsukiji market before it was relocated to a new facility on a former gas plant site on Tokyo Bay.

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The move was delayed repeatedly due to concerns over soil contamination.

Japan is the biggest consumers of the torpedo-shaped bluefin tuna, and surging consumption here and overseas has led to overfishing.

Experts warn it faces possible extinction, with stocks of Pacific bluefin depleted by 96% from their pre-industrial levels.

‘The celebration surrounding the annual Pacific bluefin auction hides how deeply in trouble this species really is,’ said Jamie Gibbon, associate manager for global tuna conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

There are signs of progress toward protecting the bluefin, and Japan and other governments have backed plans to rebuild Pacific bluefin stocks, with a target of 20% of historic levels by 2034.

Decades-old Tsukiji was one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations as well as the world’s biggest fish market.

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The new market opened in October. A few businesses stayed in Tsukiji but nearly all of the 500-plus wholesalers and other businesses shifted to Toyosu.

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Tsukiji is due to be redeveloped, though for now it’s being turned into a parking lot for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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