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Japan's Sacred Bluefin, Loved Too Much

"These are the times we live in," he explained, adding that by selling from his freezer he can average out costs and slowly pass price increases on to customers, while compensating for an increasingly unreliable supply of tuna at auction.

The World Wildlife Fund and other environmental groups say that much more regulation is needed to protect the fish.

But Japan has won some measured praise for abiding by substantial reductions in its tuna quota and for finally realizing that overfishing is a national problem.

Iida believes a permanent change in Japanese attitudes and consumption can save the tuna -- and preserve his country's tuna-centric culture.

"We all have to share what we have got," he said. "If we do that, I don't think they are going extinct."

Special correspondent Akiko Yamamoto contributed to this report.

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