Maruha-Nichiro to double bluefin production
Maruha Nichiro Seafoods, Japan’s biggest producer of farmed bluefin tuna, will double its output by establishing a new production site in Wakayama Prefecture and expanding its existing farms.
The Tokyo-based company has set a goal of increasing its annual harvest from 2,000 metric tons in 2009 to 4,000 metric tons in 2014. Maruha Nichiro already has bluefin aquaculture pens at eight locations in Japan, primarily near Amami-Oshima, an island in Kagoshima Prefecture, and in Mei Prefecture.
The new aquaculture facility will be its second in Wakayama Prefecture and the company’s largest. The Nikkei Shimbun reports that the local fisheries cooperative organization has already issued a license for the development. In Japan, inshore fisheries are managed by local fisheries cooperatives based in port towns.
Maruha Nichiro’s operations use juveniles harvested from the wild. Though they are also experimenting toward closed-cycle breeding, they have achieved a survival rate of only about 0.4 percent, compared to Kinki University’s 6 percent. The company aims to be marketing 10,000 tuna bred from eggs in 2015, but this would amount to just 500 metric tons, or one-sixteenth of its projected volume.
Japan consumed approximately 40,000 metric tons of bluefin last year, with the Atlantic/Mediterranean and Pacific each contributing 40 percent. The remaining 20 percent, about 8,000 metric tons, was farmed in Japan. With its aggressive expansion, the company aims to remain the No. 1 producer. Japan’s tuna farming businesses, including competitors Nihon Suisan, Kyokuyo, Kinki University and Toyota Tsusho, are ramping up production in response to stricter catch limits worldwide. The total allowable catch for Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin was reduced by 40 percent for 2010, and reductions are also expected for the Pacific.
In March, the company’s tuna farming operations obtained Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) certification for food traceability, a first for any such operations in Japan. The certification requires the company to publish data on farmed tuna, including where they came from originally and what they were fed, and allows tuna farmed by the company to be sold with the JAS symbol at retailers that satisfy certain conditions.
In addition to increasing production of bluefin tuna, the company’s 2008-11 “Double Wave 21” strategic plan calls for increasing vannamei shrimp and grouper farming.