Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the world's largest, sold Saturday during its traditional first auction of the year a 222-kilo (489-pound) bluefin tuna for the record price of 155.4 million yen ($1.7 million).

The tuna, caught in waters off the coastal town of Oma in the northern Japanese province of Aomori, almost tripled the previous record set last year when the price paid for a 269-kilo (593-pound) bluefin tuna was 56.49 million yen (close to $640,000).

In this year's first auction, the purchaser of the costly tuna was the same successful bidder as last year, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of the sushi restaurant chain Kiyomura.

"It was a bit expensive," the 60-year-old buyer told the Kyodo news agency, adding that his record bid serves to "encourage Japan by offering good tuna."

After paying for the record-setting fish, Kimura will sell it in his Tsukiji establishment at the usual price of between 128 and 398 yen (between $1.50 and $4.50) for each piece of sushi.

The prized tuna sold today in Tokyo went for around 700,000 yen per kilo (some $3,600 per pound), far surpassing the previous record of 210,000 yen per kilo ($1,080 per pound) scored last year.

In recent years Japan, the biggest consumer of tuna in the world, has seen its supply of bluefin tuna threatened by the reduction of international quotas, an attempt to rein in the overfishing that puts the survival of the species at risk. EFE