'First bluefin tuna' auction winner to share spoils with the needy

The businessman who won the auction for the "first bluefin tuna" of the year in Yilan County on Wednesday will turn the fish into tasty dishes for underprivileged groups.

James Cheng won the auction with a bid of NT$1.09 million (US$33,890) for the 183-kilogram bluefin tuna, an average of about NT$6,000 per kilogram. The bidding opened at NT$3,600 per kilo.

Cheng, who won the auction for the third consecutive year, said he will "give a banquet for underprivileged groups as I've done in the past."

The annual bluefin tuna fishing season runs from April to June, and many fishing boats strive to catch the "first bluefin tuna" of the year.

To qualify for the honor in Yilan County, the fishing boat has to be registered in Suao, one of the county's main fishing ports, and the fish has to be alive when caught and weigh over 180 kilograms.

The Suao Fishermen's Association said the fishing boat that took the honor this year -- the "Yu-hsieh-fa" -- caught the bluefin tuna in waters around 20 nautical miles north of Yonaguni Island, the westernmost inhabited island of Japan.

The fish, which measured 220 centimeters in length, was sold in an auction on Wednesday presided over by Yilan County Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien.

After winning the auction with a bid of NT$1.09 million, Cheng will receive a subsidy of NT$416,000 from the Yilan County government, the fishermen's association, and the Suao Township Office. (By Worthy Shen and Lilian Wu)