OSAKA – Kindai University, which pioneered the artificial farming of bluefin tuna — a pricy delicacy served as sushi — is giving new life to the discarded skin of the precious fish by utilizing it for leather and cosmetics products.
The Osaka Prefecture-based university and a leather company in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture have turned fish skin thrown away by restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka into such products as wallets, key cases and business card holders, which have been gaining in popularity for the leather, which retains the texture of fish scales.
“We made the products with an elegant touch and unique shiny surface,” said Hiroshi Yoneda, a 38-year-old designer at leather manufacturer Cordvan Co.
The fish leather products have been sold under the brand name Piscine. While the skin of farmed bluefin tuna has the advantage of having little damage on its surface, the university and the company needed to overcome the difficulty of getting rid of its fishy smell.
As any fat left on the fish skin would be a source of odor, it needed to be carefully removed by hand. Tanning the skin, a process that keeps leather flexible, was also a challenge as fish skin is thinner than other animal leather.
The firm has produced a wallet sold for ¥30,240 ($270) on a made-to-order basis.
In the cosmetics field, Osaka-based confectionary maker UHA Mikakuto Co. and the faculty of pharmacy at Kindai University are collaborating in the development of lip treatment products.
A laboratory led by associate professor Atsushi Taga extracted high-purity unheated collagen from the abandoned skin of bluefin tuna. The collagen is used in a “lip scrub,” priced at ¥1,080 for 20 grams and a “lip essence,” at ¥918 for 8 grams. The products are available at a shop at the university.
According to Taga, unheated collagen is a valuable substance, with only about 100 grams collected from a bluefin tuna weighing 40 kg.
Compared to collagen taken from wild bluefin tuna, farmed tuna offers higher quality and safer collagen, thanks to its managed feeding and living environment, he said.
“Kindai’s tuna is a symbol of practical education, which is our school philosophy. We hope to show the school’s charm through the activity,” a Kindai University official said.
After beginning research into artificial cultivation of tuna in 1970, the Aquaculture Research Institute of Kindai University succeeded in complete aquafarming of bluefin tuna for the first time in the world in 2002.
Two years later, the university began shipping Kindai Maguro (tuna), which was artificially raised from eggs.
Wild bluefin tuna has been popular for sushi and sashimi but excessive fishing has caused a serious dwindling of stocks.