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Japan Opens First On-land Bluefin Farm Japan, June 6, 13

The Fisheries Research Agency will start a project to farm bluefin tuna, which is highly prized for sushi, in huge tanks on land, beginning on Saturday.

Bluefin tuna has never been farmed on land before, but the agency aims to produce about 100,000 tuna four years from now. If successful, the project could help stabilize the price of bluefin tuna.

The agency, headquartered in Yokohama, plans to stock a pair of 20-meter-wide, 6-meter-deep tanks in Nagasaki with 100 tuna each.

The tuna will be 2 years old at the start, and the agency hopes to collect fertilized eggs two years into the project. It will then transfer the eggs to a tank on Kakemaro Island, Kagoshima Prefecture. When the young fish grow to about 6 centimeters long, it will release them into a pen at sea.

Conventional tuna farming operations catch young fish in the wild to be raised in pens at sea, but this has led to fears that the young fish are being overharvested.

Full cultivation across the fishes' entire life cycle, starting by collecting eggs from adult fish kept in pens, has already been achieved, but the unpredictability of open-ocean weather and temperatures is a barrier to sustaining such operations on a large scale.

In contrast, it is possible to adjust light and temperatures in the controlled environment of a tank on land, so eggs may be stably collected, the agency said.

In 2011, shipments of conventionally farmed bluefin tuna reached about 10,000 tons, 10 times the level of 2001. But the declining number of young fish is causing the expansion of farming to plateau.