Japan firms boost bluefin farming as sea stocks decline

JIJI

Japanese companies are increasingly looking to bluefin tuna farming as a source of growth as its population in the sea declines.

Food-maker Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. is researching how to farm bluefin by artificially hatching eggs or fattening juvenile fish to maturity.

Maruha Nichiro Corp., which launched full-fledged shipments of fully farmed tuna this year, is aiming to expand its sales to include overseas restaurants that serve Japanese cuisine.

In a world first, Kinki University’s Fisheries Laboratory succeeded in the full-farming of bluefin tuna in 2002.

The university started mass-producing fully farmed bluefin tuna in cooperation with trading house Toyota Tsusho Corp. in 2014. It aims to sell 240 tons of the fish, mainly to department stores, in 2020.

Maruha Nichiro succeeded in the full-farming of bluefin for the first time for a private company in 2010 and started shipments this year.

The company is making efforts to sell tuna directly to restaurants both within and outside of Japan instead of through wholesale markets. The company is also doing direct seasonal tuna shipments to major supermarket chain Aeon Co.

Maruha Nichiro expects tuna shipments to total more than 200 tons this year.

A Nippon Suisan Kaisha official said full-farming of bluefin tuna was still at the research stage, but a source familiar with the industry said the technique was closer to becoming perfected.

According to the Fisheries Agency’s resources management division, international regulations are set to be tightened on catching bluefin in September, based on a resources survey last month.

As a result, demand is set to increase further for fully farmed bluefin, with competition expected to intensify.