Fish farmers are one step closer to raising tuna like chicken, a long-held dream for the industry.
Normally, tuna fishers round up wild tuna and then fatten them in pens. Those tuna roundups and other intensive fishing of the Northern bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) have reduced its breeding stock in the wild to dangerously low numbers as the tuna are often caught while still young.
But the aquaculture industry is now one step closer to farming tuna. As many as 85 tuna may have contributed to a captive spawning project earlier this year. The experiment took place at Umami Sustainable Seafood Inc.’s commercial fish farming facility Kali Tuna, based on the Croatian island of Uglian in the Adriatic sea.
“This event marks a major milestone in our company’s ultimate goal of building a commercially viable closed life cycle bluefin tuna farming operation. For three consecutive years at our Croatian facility, we have spawned bluefin tuna in captivity in a natural way,” said Oli Valur Steindorsson, Umami’s Chairman and CEO in a press release.
Umami also claimed to breed the five-year-old tuna without adding artificial hormones. Because the fish naturally spawn in deep, open waters, many have tried with limited success to breed tuna in captivity. Others have questioned whether a tuna breeding program could even work without large amounts of hormones regulating the life cycle of the fish.
Genetic testing showed that the tuna fry hatched from the captive spawning project matched the genetics of the maternal population. Which means the young fish came from eggs and sperm that came together in Umami’s facility.
“Although we still have a lot of work left to do in achieving our ultimate goal of developing economically viable processes of raising fish from the fry, these results prove that our experience, and our understanding of the species, is paying off,” said Steindorsson.
“I am now more confident than ever that we will be able to dramatically increase the world’s access to this highly valued food source, without any degradation in quality, while, at the same time, decreasing the pressure on the world’s wild populations,” said Steindorsson.
Umami supplies high-end tuna for the Japanese sushi market.
IMAGE 1: A fish porter in the tuna producing area of General Santos City in the Philippines. (Getty Images)
IMAGE 2: Adriatic tuna ranch in Bobovisce near Split, Croatia. (Corbis)