Q&A: Aquaculture expert talks bluefin tuna


Neil Ray, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Bangkok

Published on
December 6, 2009

At last week’s Second Kinki University Global Centre of Excellence Symposium in Adelaide, Australia, Clean Seas Tuna and the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) illustrated the breakthroughs that have been made in southern bluefin tuna aquaculture in 2009. Announced earlier this year, the breakthroughs include the continuous spawning by Clean Seas’ captive bluefin tuna broodstock for more than 35 days; the production of more than 50 million fertilized eggs and 30 million larvae; the fertilization of more than 90 percent of the eggs; and significant advances in the commercialization of bluefin tuna aquaculture.

So what’s next for Clean Seas and the CRC? Dr. Len Stephens, managing director of the CRC, spoke to SeafoodSource about this year’s developments and the future of bluefin tuna farming.

Ray: When did the project start?
Stephens: The project began some six years ago and was funded by the company Clean Seas Tuna. About two to three years later the Cooperative Research Centre became involved.

Who had the foresight to predict that southern bluefin tuna stocks would be threatened by overfishing and that a supply gap would need to be filled?
It was the foresight of Clean Seas Tuna [founder] Mr. Hagen Stehr, who anticipated the tuna supply problem way ahead of everyone. He was, at one time, a tuna fisherman and pioneered a number of innovations in the industry.

According to the CRC, Clean Seas will introduce a juvenile stock of 25,000 bluefin tuna in 2010. When do you expect commercial production to begin?
Clean Seas anticipates commercial production in approximately two to three years time, which would be around 2012.

Has Australia been instrumental in the research?
One of our main partners in the research has been Kinki University, which has been researching aquaculture for yellowfin tuna. We have been working on southern bluefin tuna.

There is still some tension between fishermen and fish farmers in Australia. Do you anticipate a similar situation developing in the tuna industry?
I think the reality is that the tuna stocks are decreasing and that this is an opportunity for fishermen to solve the problem or go out of business. The price of tuna may have to rise, and it’s possible that with supply from aquaculture sources, prices may fall. Whatever the case, tuna fishermen will have to accept that changes are vital.

What’s the future of bluefin tuna aquaculture in South Australia?
We are going to put as much as we can into further research and development. This is the future of tuna production, and South Australia is leading the world.

SeafoodSource wants to hear your opinion. Do you think the commercialization of bluefin tuna aquaculture will help fill the supply gap and protect ailing bluefin tuna stocks? 

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