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ผู้เขียน หัวข้อ: Bluefin tuna farming expected to grow in '09  (อ่าน 2121 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: มกราคม 02, 2009, 05:19:07 PM »

Source: Asahi Shimbun  World News    1/01/2009 20:16:35

Hideaki Yuri

In the Ozaki district on Tsushima island in Nagasaki Prefecture, a worker tosses Japanese sand lance and mackerel into one of the 80 round crawls set up in the sea.

 

The calm water abruptly churns as the feeding frenzy starts among the 400 to 500 bluefin tuna splashing around in the fish preserve.

 

The bluefin tuna fish farm here is one of many sprouting up around Japan in response to the lowering of international catch quotas for the prized fish.

 

Industry insiders expect the harvest to reach to about 8,000 tons in 2009, double the figure for 2007.

 

But farming the fish, which is one of the staples of Japanese sushi restaurants, is an expensive and risky endeavor.

 

"While our operation has finally taken off, our money is not accumulating at home, but is rather swimming in those crawls," said Yasunori Takarabe, the head of a cooperative of seven fish farms in the Ozaki district that have named their brand "Toro no hana."

 

"Anyone thinking about starting anew needs to take bold steps since about 100 million yen will be needed to sell 500 tuna in the third year," he said.

 

Tsushima is about a 30-minute plane ride from Fukuoka. Driving from Tsushima airport for about another 30 minutes takes one to a quaint fishing village facing Aso Bay.

 

"The clear waters here are suited for farming. The other necessary conditions, such as a minimum water temperature of 13 degrees and a minimum depth of 20 meters, are also met," Takarabe said.

 

Fry, known locally as yokowa and measuring about 25 centimeters and weighing only a few hundred grams, grow into tuna between 70 cm and 1 meter and between 30 and 60 kilograms in about 30 to 36 months.

 

The grown fish have fetched prices of 3,600 to 3,700 yen per kilogram in the past year, with shipments sent mainly to the Kanto region.

 

The 80 crawls each measure about 20 meters in diameter and hold hundreds of fish.

 

Another advantageous condition is that the yokowa fry swim from the southwest, carried by the Tsushima current.

 

Because the fry are delicate creatures, it is difficult to transport them alive. Catching fry close to the farm reduces the number of fish that die or grow weak during transport.

 

Takarabe, 59, and his cooperative began farming bluefin tuna from 1999 and came up with the Toro no hana brand in 2002.

 

The Ozaki district once had about 20 farms raising yellowtail and sea bream. However, many folded due to low fish prices. The remaining farms decided to switch to bluefin tuna, which fetch higher prices.

 

Four farms started out selling about 800 fish, but in 2009, the cooperative plans to ship 4,000 fish and double that number in 2010.

 

It has been a trial and error process. At first, buyers said the farmed tuna was too fatty, so the farmers used leaner mackerel as feed.

 

Fish farming has its share of risks. The price of fry in 2008 was 4,500 yen each, about 500 yen higher than the previous year due mainly to higher gasoline prices.

 

There are also huge swings in how much fry can be obtained. One year, only 1,000 fry were available. Farmers said a good year is when 70 percent of the fry can be eventually shipped to market.

 

The price of mackerel used as feed has also risen about 30 percent from about three to four years ago.

 

In all of Japan, about 2,000 tons of bluefin tuna were shipped about five years ago. The figure is expected to grow to 8,000 tons in 2009.

 

While there are no certain statistics, Kagoshima Prefecture is the most prolific, with a harvest of about 2,000 tons in 2006. Nagasaki is second with about 500 tons.

 

But farmed bluefin tuna still represents a small ratio of the total sold in Japan. In the peak years of 2005 and 2006, about 44,000 tons were consumed.

 

Major tuna trader Toyo Reizo Co., which handles about 40 percent of the bluefin tuna sold in Japan, established a farming subsidiary in Tsushima in September. In the same month, the trading firm Sojitz Corp. set up a farming subsidiary in Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture.

 

Marine Foods Corp., a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers Inc., set up a farming subsidiary in July in cooperation with local farmers in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture.

 

Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. had operated farms on Amami-Oshima island in Kagoshima Prefecture and in Okinawa Prefecture. The company plans to raise shipments to 2,600 tons in 2010, an increase of 1,000 tons over 2007.

 

Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. has operated farms in Amami Oshima and Koshikijima islands, Kagoshima Prefecture, and wants to increase its harvest from the 200 tons of 2007 to between 800 and 900 tons in 2009.

 

All companies are moving into farming to secure a stable supply of bluefin tuna amid the shrinking catch quotas under international agreements.

 

In November, the total catch for the eastern Atlantic in 2009 was reduced by about 20 percent from the original plan of 27,500 tons to 22,000 tons. The figure will be further cut to 19,950 tons in 2010 and 18,500 tons in 2011.

 

Last March, the Nagasaki prefectural government announced a plan to promote bluefin tuna farming, under which the harvest would be increased fourfold in five years.

 

One concern is the move to set international quotas for the yokowa fry, according to Fisheries Agency officials. Farming bluefin tuna from roe has still not moved to the commercial stage.

 

"Some say domestic farming of tuna could exceed 10,000 tons," said Seiji Takahashi, who heads the Feed and Aquaculture Business Operations Department at Nippon Suisan. "However, since there will emerge problems in obtaining fry, we may face a major hurdle at around 8,000 to 9,000 tons."
 
 

Source or related URL: http://www.asahi.com
 
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