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Hatchery No Competition For Wild Reared Bluefin

Malta has doubled the amount of bluefin tuna it is breading in captivity. Large international fishing companies fish for tuna close to the south of Malta and Libya during the tuna season. The tuna is caught alive and sold to fattening tuna pens of which Malta buys its 180 ton share of the quota. But tuna is a migratory species and difficulties can emerge when breeding due to its need for changing environmental conditions. Japan has attempted to make financial success from bluefin farming since the 1970’s, and to date has only managed a 5 percent survival rate.

The Times of Malta published the following text:

With reference to the article entitled ‘No threat to tuna sales’ (November 18), I wish to point out a few misunderstandings or misconceptions on the bluefin tuna breeding success and development of aquaculture techniques to produce what are known as closed cycle species (CCS).

When species such as the bluefin tuna produce hundreds of millions of eggs, the five percent survival rate obtained in Japan indicates that quite a good number of tuna juveniles can be produced.

Research advances in Europe are progressing well and great interest is shown, especially in Malta and Spain. Malta alone can boast of three farms that are capable of producing fertilized eggs of this species and a major role in the EU funded Trans-DOTT research project, however, limited hatchery facilities keep us on the back foot and plans for the development and construction of a hatchery capable of supporting bluefin tuna research are underway.

The production of hatchery-reared bluefin tuna shouldn’t be seen as a threat of a disaster mainly because the Japanese will always value wild-caught fish very highly and pay incredible amounts for it. The capture-based bluefin tuna market will also be required since this is also very highly valued and there will always be a niche market for these fish.

CCS-produced tuna has many advantages and can lead to new markets, as is the production of other farmed species through aquaculture. It will take over four years to produce market sizes of 70 kg or above that will have the very high value mentioned above, so the probability is that the CCS-produced bluefin tuna will not be marketed for the sushi and sashimi markets in Japan.

There is an array of products that can be prepared for different markets and these products will not necessarily interfere with wild catches.