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Japan's Sustainable Tuna Arrives in Virginia

by 5m Editor
11 March 2009, at 12:00am

US - Kindai bluefin tuna, said to be more sustainably raised than other farmed fish, is now being flown in to Washington from Japan.

For years sushi aficionados have reserved their most lavish praise -- and their spare cash -- for bluefin tuna, the fatty, pinkish fish featured at high-end restaurants across the globe, writes Juliet Eilperin in the WashingtonPost. But as wild stocks of the fish have plummeted, ordering bluefin has become as socially unacceptable as consuming the once-ubiquitous Chilean sea bass.

Now, Virginia's Monterey Bay Fish Grotto restaurant has joined a small group of U.S. restaurants selling a bluefin tuna dubbed Kindai, farmed from hatched eggs in Japan as the result of a university laboratory's efforts to ease diners' consciences. According to the WashingtonPost, although the product is not fully sustainable, it underscores how fish suppliers and academic innovators are seeking to satisfy consumer demand without wiping out wild populations altogether.

This popular appeal -- because of the high demand, a single bluefin can sell for $100,000 or more -- has exacted a serious environmental cost. Among the four bluefin populations worldwide, the number of Mediterranean bluefin has plummeted by more than half since the 1950s, and the Gulf of Mexico population is less than 20 percent of its 1970 size. Continued fishing of bluefin in the Mediterranean and incidental bycatch in the Gulf have raised the prospect that the species could go commercially extinct.

The Kindai bluefin represent a better form of tuna ranching. Scientists at Japan's Kinki University and Australia's Clean Seas Tuna Ltd., a commercial operation, have produced the Kindai from hatched eggs rather than captured juveniles. Clean Seas, which is consulting with Kinki, has yet to start marketing its fish, but it reported this month that its separate brood stock of bluefin from the Southern Ocean have started spawning.

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