Yellowtail takes center stage in Tokyo

Published on
July 27, 2009

Yellowtail was among the seafood species receiving a lot of play at last week’s ninth annual Japan International Seafood & Technology Expo at Tokyo Big Sight, featuring approximately 30,000 visitors and 550 exhibitors.

In Japan, young yellowtail is called hamachi and is mainly a sushi or sashimi item, while older yellowtail is called buri and may also be used for grilling with teriyaki sauce.

Yellowtail, amberjack (kampachi) and sea bream (madai) are often farmed by the same company, but of the three mainly yellowtail is destined for overseas markets.

Akio Higuchi of Kagoshima Sangyo Boeki said there is competition from Chinese yellowtail producers for the Hong Kong market, and the leaner amberjack is sometimes passed off as yellowtail in Hong Kong restaurants.

As for the United States and Europe, which have high sanitation and cold-chain requirements, Japan has a firm position, he said, because all producers have HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) certification and the feed is formulated according to strict standards, whereas other Asian producers tend to have greater variability in feed quality.

There is a trend toward exporting yellowtail frozen in ocean containers rather than fresh by air, to preserve color and save on shipping cost. In today’s tight economy, overseas buyers are seeking price cuts.

A few Japanese producers were considering dropping amberjack in favor of Pacific bluefin tuna (kuromaguro) in a few years, as the science for captive breeding of bluefin is advancing, led by Kinki University’s Marine Research Center in Wakayama, Japan.

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Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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