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Thursday, November 27, 2014

FALL CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE: Day #24B--A Kinki Blue-Fin Tuna Future

The world record for bluefin tuna is 1496 pounds, caught off Nova Scotia. Last year Kiyoshi Kimura paid $1.75 million just for one 489 pound bluefin tuna.  That's $3600/pound.  Sashimi is a must for the Japanese on New Year Day, and this was one way for a restaurant to entice and reward regular customers.  These two pieces of sushi need to command a price of $450 to cover expenses.

However, the Pacific blue fin is close to extinction, as the drop from the baseline has been 96%.  Further, the vast majority of those caught are below 2 years old, when they haven't yet reached reproductive capability.    Yet, while at one point endangered, NOAA does not consider the Atlantic bluefin tuna to warrant species protection, for regulation seems to be working.

I've long been following the research to close the growth cycle for the Pacific Bluefin Tuna, and  Kinki University, with their two main campuses located in Osaka, is the world leader.  On an afterthought, I just made an attempt to visit with Tokihiko Okada and Hidemi Kumai (left), pioneers who have been conducting this work since 1969.  My butler at the St. Regis eventually succeeded in helping me contact one of the staff, Dr. Keitaro Kato, but we couldn't work out a time to meet during my short stay.  Kinki also has a research lab growing this tuna at Kushimoto in Wakayama Prefecture:

Called honmaguro, or true tuna, the bluefin variety is especially treasured in Japan, and is why too many were caught.  The annual catch is now down to 45,000 tons (20,000 tons is the sanctioned max, but it is feared that 60,000 tons are actually being annually caught), about a 50% drop during the past decade.

Farmed fish in general now account for 42%, up from 13% in 1990.  However, 56% of shrimp and 99% of oysters are aquacultured.
Dr. Kumai, in particular, has now been at this for half a century, and their team did close the growth cycle for bluefin tuna.  However, simple fireworks can kill off a bunch, and they lost 2000 babies once when someone just turned on the light.  That 11March 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake 400 miles away killed 10% of their brood.  As disappointing as their success rate might be, for only one in a hundred survives to any kind of maturity, in the wild, only one in tens of millions becomes an adult.

Interestingly enough, the two companies most involved with the coming commercialization of farmed bluefin tuna are Toyota and Mitsubishi.  The latter has already cornered 40% the world bluefin tuna market.  Toyota is the corporation involved with commercializing Kinki University's farmed bluefin tuna.  A key breakthrough occurred in 2002 when Kinki achieved a complete farming cycle, and as early as 2009 was alreading shipping 40,000 artificially hatched young fish a foot long to local farmers.  One of these aqucultural companies in Nagasaki is called Tuna Dream Goto:

I am attempting work out a cooperative program for the Kinki bluefin tuna entrepreneurs and researchers to utilize the Pacific International Ocean Station in their future plans, for the open ocean is the ideal environment for their commercial operations.

My next posting will be really kinky!  But as I'm now in Osaka, the headquarters of Kinki University and the home of Yu-chan, what about the prospects of the whale shark being aquacultured to replace beef steaks, and maybe even turkey on Thanksgiving?


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