Video Of Dolphins Looks So Good It Doesn’t Seem Real

Mark Peters recently went fishing for tuna off the coast of Santa Cruz in California. He took with him his trusty GoPro video camera and a newly built “torpedo” housing that would allow him to film underwater. Peters hoped to capture some great footage of their catch of the day but instead wound up with some of the most amazing video of dolphins that you could ever hope to see. The images are so good in fact, you’ll swear they were created by Pixar.

The video, which you’ll find below, just serves to underscore how excellent and versatile the GoPro cameras really are. They were designed for use in action sports, such as mountain biking or kayaking, but have evolved into a fantastic device for capturing video in a variety of situations. The footage captured here simply has to be seen to be believed.

The Blue” from Mark Peters on Vimeo

Bluefin tuna sells for $400,000, a record times two

For a variety of reasons –primarily overfishing and hoarding — I’ve been predicting for the past couple years that within the next decade we will see a bluefin tuna sold in Japan for $500,000, even $1 million.

Looks like we won’t have to wait that long.

At the annual first-day of the new year sale at Tokyo’s monstrous Tsukiji Central Fish Market a new record for a single fish was set: $396,000 for a 754 pound bluefin.

The fish, caught off the Japanese island of Hokkaido has no special ju-ju. It won’t taste any better than any of the other 538 bluefin sold at the market on the same day, at one of its two daily morning auctions. The record price equates to $527 per pound of meat.

It is special only because it was the first sold in 2011. The first day the market is open in the New Year is known as the “celebratory market.” In a nation that lives for seafood – the Japanese consume 80 percent of the Atlantic and Bluefins caught each year – being first clearly counts for a lot.

A pair of restaurant owners from Tokyo and Hong Kong bought this big fish. They are trusting that their biggest clients and strangers alike will wait in long lines outside their stylish Tokyo sushi bar or one of several Hong Kong-based chain sushi restaurants for a taste of the first-of-the-year-fish and be willing to be upwards of $100 per bite for the chance.
“What a relief I was able to buy this fish,” Ricky Cheng, owner of the Itamae Sushi chain, part of Hong Kong’s Taste of Japan group, told reporters gathered at the market for the spectacle. “We wanted to get it for good luck, even if we lose money.” His partner in the purchase owns a high-end sushi bar in Tokyo’s high-end Ginza district.

Ironically the World Wildlife Fund has been pressuring the chain to stop serving all bluefin at Cheng’s restaurants and demanding it not participate in the “symbolic bidding.”

Several coordinated governmental efforts were made in 2010 to slow the catch of bluefin. They largely failed, leaving the big, speedy fish closer to extinction, in large part due to Japan’s voracious appetite and keen lobbying skills.

Watching all this activity from the sidelines is the Mitsubishi Company, which controls an estimated forty percent of all sales of bluefin in Japan. Some is put on the market, some it goes straight into giant freezers. The company is counting on the day when bluefin will no longer be available in the wild and the only stocks remaining will be frozen.

That’s when I predict we’ll see the $1 million bluefin.

Bowermaster’s Adventures — Going Going Gone! The World’s Biggest Tuna Auction

My first glimpse of Tsukiji fish market’s big, daily tuna auction is surreal: A thousand frozen blue fin tuna – weighing between one and two hundred pounds each – laid out in symmetrical rows on a concrete floor. That first look through a scratched plastic peephole, blurring the edges of the scene, makes it evermore otherworldly.

A pair of cavernous auction rooms sit at the far back of the market. Entry to each is through eight big yellow canvas roll-down doors, each bay representing a different company. Beginning around three a.m. the big fish are laid out; an hour later buyers or their representatives – from restaurants, supermarkets and vendors within the market – arrive to begin their daily inspection. This being Japan it is all very prompt: At 5:30 the first side of the room is auctioned, at 6 the second side. By 6:15, 6:20 at the latest, tuna are being dragged out and loaded onto carts to be sent all around Tsukiji, Tokyo and cities beyond, some destined for as far away as China.

Tuna are the biggest business in the world’s biggest fish market. Japanese love their blue fin and pay dearly. The biggest and best sell for $50,000, $80,000, occasionally more than $100,000. For a single fish. Last night we visited a high-end sushi joint in the chi-chi neighborhood of Ginza, which had split the cost of this year’s traditional “first” tuna with another restaurant, on January 8th – for a 129 kilos (261 pounds) tuna they paid more than $104,000. For the next several days’ lines stretched around the block for a taste.

The tuna come to Tsukiji from all over the world; Japanese processing boats scour the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere buying up everything they can. They are not alone. One result of this rapacious demand, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is that blue fin tuna may be wiped out in the next few years.

This morning laid out in neat rows, still wearing sheen of frost and numbered with red food die there would appear to be no worry about running out of tuna. Each fish is split along its belly and a chunk has been cut out of its side to be used as a handhold. The tail has been cut off and a circular piece of meat dangles there by a thin piece of skin. A flap of meat has been cut flayed back near the tail, which is the main spot of inspection. Apparently the back and forth motion of the tail generates lots of oil in the fish and the more oil the better.

More than one hundred buyers mill about the frozen fish, in a kind of uniform: Blue coveralls or jacket with company name in white on the chest. Rubber boots. Ball cap with official badge indicating the buyer’s number pinned to its peak. The tools of the trade are simple: A flashlight, a wooden handled metal hook for lifting and probing, a cloth or paper towel hanging from the belt for wiping off fingers and hands post probing, a tiny notebook for jotting in and a cell phone for communicating with an absent boss. My favorite shopper is tall for a Japanese and wears a green windbreaker the same color as his dyed green hair, which is swept back Elvis-style. He’s got to be in his sixties, wears thick glasses and jokes with everyone around him as he inspects.

The inspection is equivalent to the kicking of a new car’s tires. With one finger the flap of meat near where the tail used to be is lifted and a flashlight shined on the exposed meat. Sometimes the flap is held back with the wooden handled hook, the density of the meat of the meat tested with hook or simply eyeballed. If they like what they see they will whack at the meat with the metal hook, opening up the still mostly frozen tuna and then dig into it with their fingers, pulling out a red morsel which they roll in their fingers into a ball. Sometimes they take a big sniffing of the rare meat. I half expect them to pull a bottle of soy out of their pocket, juice it up and have a taste. I watch to see if they slip the meat into their pockets for later, but instead they most often drop it onto the floor, wipe their fingers on the towel hung from their belt and move onto the next fish. The biggest buyers bid on lots, buying a half-dozen at a time; some are here for an individual fish.

I’m curious about the hierarchy of the market and try to ask a couple Japanese men standing beside me. My assumption is that the auctioneers must be near the top of the heap. They say no, contending that everyone at the market – whether truck driver, fish cutter, icemaker or auctioneer – is equal. I ask who owns the market and they say they think it is three men. Which makes me wonder if it’s anything like the Fulton Fish Market in New York, which was long “administered” by the mob? One thing is clear: There are very few women and no Caucasians (“too tall,” they are told if they apply).


At exactly 5:30 the first of the two morning auctions begins with frantic hand bell ringing by four simultaneous auctioneers, each representing a different company, each standing on a blue step stool in front of one of the bay doors. Each rings with a different fervor and pace, beginning to shout out loud as the ringing increases. With a quick doff of his ball cap – to the fish, or the spirits at large? – each is off, shouting and gesticulating, faces turning bright red, yelling what sounds to the non-Japanese ear something like, “TACO TACO TACO …. HIPPO HIPPO HIPPO … SAMPLE SAMPLE SAMPLE … TACO TACO TACO … SAPPY SAPPY SAPPY …” at the top of their lungs.

Each auctioneer has a personal style, bobbing and weaving and shouting in odd fashion, each channeling some kind of individual tuna god. My favorite is a tall man in a blue jumpsuit and brown ball cap, wearing thick glasses and a # 2 pencil stuck in a sleeve pocket. He notates madly in a little book even as his calling gets louder, more fervent, his face maroon, eyes glancing up towards the fluorescents as if he were channeling directly from the god of the sea, yet somehow registering the subtle finger lifting from buyers until calling out the Japanese equivalent of GOING … GOING … GONE. As he shouts a pair of men on either side note with pencil on paper the winning bids and then quickly mark each fish sold with a thick black magic marker.

The whole shebang lasts about ten minutes, sending several hundred fish towards cutting tables scattered around the sprawling market.

Twenty minutes later the second half of the warehouse is auctioned. I keep my eye on an individual buyer, representing a vendor inside the market. I watched him study a particular fish – at one point turning his back to it and grabbing it between his legs, I’m guessing to judge its weight? As soon as his bid was accepted he turned his ball cap around – the number on the metal plate pinned to its peak is his i.d. – he pulled out his hook, grabbed his fish and began dragging it towards the door. Using the handhold cut in its side he hoisted it onto a waiting, man-pulled cart and trailered it off into the maelstrom, on its way by day’s end to someone’s table.

UPDATE: Tokyo’s tuna auctions open to public again

Back in December, I wrote about how the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo had closed its famous tuna auctions to the public over concerns that tourists were creating hygiene issues and distracting the workers. Well, after reconsidering the month-long ban, the powers that be at the fish market have decided that tourism is important enough that visitors will be allowed to enter all areas of the fish market, including the early morning tuna auctions.

Security guards will monitor the scene at the auctions to ensure that no one hugs, licks or rides the giant fish. And visitors will receive information sheets when they arrive at Tsukiji outlining the rules of the fish market. It’s a sad commentary on the state of humanity when people need to be explicitly instructed not to lick or ride dead fish, but if that’s what needs to be done to keep this amazing place open to the public then so be it.

Tourists can view the tuna auctions from 5:00AM until 6:15AM and can then wander around the other areas freely throughout the day. And who knows, you may be able to witness the next tuna that sells for $104,000.

As for the morons who can’t help but mount dead fish: We’re on to you, Firestone, and we think you have a problem.

Spend a lot to taste a little: the $100,000 tuna

This past week, two Tokyo restaurants shared the $104,800 tab on a 128 kg (282 lb.) bluefin tuna. If that sounds like a lot, the restaurant actually paid 9.63 million yen-same amount of money, just sounds like more. Okay, if you’re impressed by the sheer cost of this fish, it set the buyer back more than $372 per pound. Of course, it’s probably worth it. Wall Street Journal reporter Yumiko Ono describes the dish as “[s]mooth, succulent and a little on the light side.

Sushi from this pricey swimmer was available for only three days. Half of it went to Kyubey, a den of sushi delicacy in the Ginza district. A small portion came with a price tag of $22 and was also offered as part of a 10-piece, $60 lunch special.

Itamae Sushi snatched the other half of the expensive tuna. Instead of pushing customers to dig deep into their pockets, the trophy catch was included in a $32 lunch special open to the first 20 people to walk through the door. Did it make money on the win? Probably not. Bragging rights, however, are priceless.