Pacific bluefin tuna. (Photo Credit: OpenCage - CC BY-SA 2.5)
Bluefin tuna farms gain popularity, bring conflict
Friday, February 15, 2013, 19:50 (GMT + 9)
A bluefin tuna reserve in Aso Bay, Nagasaki Prefecture, rears young wild-caught fish for three years until they are ready to be sold in the market. This system supplies tuna in prime condition without fishers having to worry about finding it in the Pacific, as coming across large amounts of adult tuna is no longer a simple feat.
“With farming, you don’t have to worry about it," says Fumitoshi Nishiyama, president of fish farm Nishiyama Suisan.
About 200 fish preserves are strewn across Aso Bay, and a single bluefin tuna can fetch more than USD 1,116 at department and retail stores in the Kanto area.
Sixty percent of the 40,000 tonnes of bluefin tuna marketed in Japan in 2011 came from precisely these kinds of fish farms, first thought up by a man named Hideo Hirahara in the mid-1990s after he spent many years working at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market in charge of tuna at a major consignment company. He began pulling young tuna in generous numbers in the Mediterranean Sea and thought of raising them for several months, until they grew large, before shipping them to Japan for sale, The Asahi Shimbun reports.
In this way, he successfully raise "toro," or marbled tuna, which inspired many others in Japan to pursue this type of farming.
The method garnered additional popularity after the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) cut tuna fishing quotas in the Mediterranean starting in 2007.
Now, according to the Fisheries Agency, there are 137 bluefin tuna preserves in 14 Japanese prefectures, with an output of 9,000 tonnes per year, with most of these fish caught as young wild tuna and raised until maturity.
Running a tuna farm requires that the company obtain approval from prefectural governors every five years.
Meanwhile, tuna populations continue to diminish across the globe, with catches halved compared to even five years ago. Further, prices are falling in response to the stable supply of tuna coming from farms, which fishers say rely on overfishing juvenile tuna to begin with.
The Fisheries Agency has informed that it will instruct prefectures to stop permitting any further farm expansions this year.
By Natalia Real