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Big Business in Japanese Tuna Farms

Economics Politics +2 more

JAPAN - Two Japanese firms intend to expand their bluefin tuna farming operations in the wake of tougher fishing restrictions and growing demand.

Popular at sushi restaurants, bluefin tuna is considered the best of all tuna varieties. A total of 10,000 tons will likely be farmed in Japan next fiscal year, with the three firms to account for 30 per cent of this.

Maruha Nichiro plans to build an aquafarm in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, by next spring. This farm will be operated jointly by entities including subsidiary Maruha Nichiro Seafoods Inc. Over three years, it anticipates spending over a billion yen to build 16 large pens.

Bluefin tuna fry will be introduced next spring, with shipments to begin after two to three years when the fish have grown to about 40kg. The farm is expected to cultivate 500 tons of bluefin tuna in fiscal 2011.

The holding company already has eight domestic farms and will increase pen numbers at them as well. Their catch is targeted at 3,200 tons for fiscal 2011, double that for last fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Kyokuyo Marine Farm Co. will catch wild tuna fry in the waters off Kochi, fattening them up quickly at its farm in that prefecture's city of Sukumo. As a result of such methods, Kyokuyo now expects to produce 110 tons of the tuna this fiscal year, up from a prior forecast for 80 tons. The farming method could also be introduced at its other domestic farms.

Because of feed and other general expenses, aquaculture does not make sense in terms of the bottom line for bigeye and other tunas. So the companies will farm only bluefin tuna, which they can sell at a premium.