Global Processing

Tuna farming getting a boost

December 7, 2009
As the world''s love affair with raw fish depletes wild tuna populations, long-running efforts to breed the deep-sea fish from egg to adulthood may finally be bearing fruit, according to the Associated Press. Though the challenges are daunting, the potential profits are huge. By the end of this year, an Australian company says it will begin selling small amounts of southern bluefin tuna hatched in its fishery. A Japanese firm breeding the more prized Pacific bluefin tuna hopes to start sales in 2013 and ship 10,000 fish by 2015. Whether tuna farming will become viable on a large scale remains an unanswered question. Tuna are much harder to rear than the widely farmed salmon and shrimp. They are large and need room to swim. They only spawn under certain circumstances. In some experiments, less than 1 percent of the babies survive. The bulk of the tuna farmed today isn''t bred from eggs; it is caught in the sea and fattened on farms. Atlantic bluefin, found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, is disappearing so rapidly that Monaco is pushing to list it as an endangered species at an international meeting in Qatar in March. The U.S. says it will back the proposal. Wild tuna still commands a premium over farmed tuna. In January, a 200-kilogram Pacific bluefin tuna fetched a record 20.2 million yen ($220,000) at a Japanese fish market. 40-kilogram (90-pound) tuna raised at Maruha fetch about 100,000 yen ($1,100) each. Japanese consume 80 percent of the world''s Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tuna, the two species most sought after by sushi lovers.