Bluefin Tuna Farming Meets Resistance

Despite the push to take pressure off of ailing wild stocks in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic Ocean, efforts to farm bluefin tuna worldwide aren't without criticism.

This month, Greece's government approved the country's second tuna farm off of Crete, with a production capacity of 1,100 metric tons. The first tuna farm has a capacity of 1,000 metric tons per year, though it only produced 477 metric tons last year.

Greece is under fire from conservationists due to its absence from last year's International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) meetings.

After approval of the second tuna farm, Greece is again under fire from conservationists. The World Wildlife Fund in Greece says the country already ranches too much tuna at the first facility.

WWF spokesman Dr. Jose Ingles said that tuna ranching is an even bigger threat than overexploitation in the wild, as it involves capturing juvenile tuna to be fattened at the farm. Juvenile tuna, according to Ingles, should be protected and given the opportunity to breed and reproduce before harvest.

In addition to eliminating juvenile tuna stock, Ingles said that it takes approximately 3 to 7 kilograms of small pelagic fish to produce 1 kilogram of bluefin tuna in captivity at a total cost of $150 per fish, which is not cost-efficient.

Though he opposes  tuna farming, Ingles prefers closed-cycle tuna aquaculture, which involves fertilization of tuna eggs in captivity. He endorses Kindai University in Japan, which has successfully completed a closed-cycle bluefin farming operation in 2002, and Australia's Clean Seas Tuna, which experimented with bluefin farming before entering a partnership with Kindai.

This method, however, is not without criticism. Peter Makoto Miyake, scientific advisor of Japan Tuna Fisheries Cooperative, said that farmed bluefin isn't exactly maguro. Based on Miyake's study, farmed tuna can sell for a high price as "fatty tuna," or toro.

An opponent of tuna farming, Miyake called for halving the bluefin total allowable catch and creating an integrated scheme that includes a tuna vessel buyback, which will lead to catch reduction. This strategy, Miyake argued, has been successful in sustaining North Atlantic cod stocks.


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