Pandemic affects first blowfish auction of 2021

This year's first auction of blowfish, or fugu, has been held in the western city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Shimonoseki is home to the largest market in Japan for the winter delicacy.

Over six tons of wild and farmed torafugu were auctioned at the Haedomari fish market early on Monday morning.

The auction started shortly after 3 a.m. Buyers and sellers negotiated their deals in the traditional style, by grasping each other's fingers inside a cloth sleeve hidden from other bidders.

The highest bidding price was 15,000 yen, or about 145 dollars per kilogram. That's about three-quarters of last year's price.

The lackluster prices appear to reflect a drop in demand for the fish from restaurants and other businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The blowfish will be mainly shipped to the Tokyo and Osaka areas.

The president of a wholesaler says that if the government decides to declare another state of emergency over the coronavirus, blowfish prices are likely to fall even further. He expressed hope that more people will enjoy the fish.