Bump in farmed bluefin due in 2015

Published on
May 9, 2012

Kinki University, which pioneered captive tuna breeding, has teamed up with Toyota Tsusho Corp. for large-scale commercial farming for export to world markets.

Kinki University is known for the Kindai brand of captive-bred bluefin, which has limited distribution in New York and San Francisco. “Kindai” is short for Kinki Daigaku, the Japanese name of Kinki University.

Goto Tuna Dream, which operates holding pens in the ocean off Fukue Island, in Nagasaki Prefecture’s Goto Island Chain, is a subsidiary of Nagoya-based Toyota Tsusho, a Toyota Group trading company.

A first batch of 14,000 juveniles, hatched at the university’s facility six months earlier, was shipped to Tuna Dream’s pens in November 2011. After two months, they were sold to aquaculture operations in Nagasaki and Kagoshima Prefectures to be fed for another three years, when they should reach a marketable length of 1 meter. This means a jump in sustainable bluefin can be expected from early 2015.

Goto Tuna Dream’s three floating net pens are each 30 meters in diameter. The 30-centimeter long juveniles swim fast and are bruised by hitting pen walls, so the pens must be large and round.

The Fisheries Laboratory of Kinki University (Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture) developed the first successful closed-cycle farming of bluefin tuna in 2002, after 40 years of study. They found that juveniles stress easily, and fail to grow when densely stocked. For mass-culture, forming an alliance with several large, well-financed companies was essential for Kinki, as large pens and low stocking densities require high pen investment per fish.

Tuna Dream’s goal is to stock 50,000 fish annually within two to three years, and to make the business profitable. President Satoshi Nishide wants to export to China, where demand is burgeoning. Shigeru Miyashita, Director of Kindai’s Science Center, hopes to eventually supply 200,000 fingerlings annually in order to reduce illegal catches and alleviate pressure on wild stocks.

At the 2009 Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo, SeafoodSource heard from Kagoshima-based Azuma-cho Fishery Cooperative that some of its producers were considering dropping low-margin amberjack production in favor of Kinki’s kuromaguro.

Kinki University has also been studying technology for hatching European eel from eggs, working with the National Research Institute of Aquaculture, Fisheries Research Center south of Ise, Mie Prefecture. They succeeded in 2010, but aim to scale-up annual production to 10,000 eels.

The university’s past successes include breeding red sea bream that grow twice as fast as their wild brethren. This stock is widely used in the industry now, though the increase in production has depressed sales prices for farmers.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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