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 user 2006-12-28 at 1:52:00 pm Views: 66
  • #17009

    Farming endangered blue-fin tuna
    Japanese eat 80% of the world’s blue-fin tuna.The problem is that, like
    many other species, stocks of the fish are declining.The situation is
    going to get a lot worse as other populous countries such as China are
    developing a taste for sushi and sashimi, which is what most of the
    blue-fin are used for.The species is hard to cultivate because it is
    difficult to recreate the conditions they are used to in the wild.The
    result can be seen at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, where the frozen
    tuna carcasses are laid out on the floor ready for the auction’s fierce

    A single giant tuna can cost you more than a new car.
    in the city of Shizoka, in a small shed on a university campus, a
    businessman is trying to recreate the oceans that the tuna are used
    to.Blue-fin tuna have been farmed before, but not indoors, the team
    behind the project says.

    ‘Magic water’
    get to where these tuna are housed, you have to go through a kind of
    air lock designed to stop any of the outside light getting in to the
    dimly-lit interior.Tuna, it seems, are rather sensitive to daylight,
    and to pretty much anything else. That is why they are coddled and
    protected from as much of the outside world as possible.Inside, in the
    gloom, there are four large circular tanks, each with a diameter of
    about five metres (16 feet).The water pumped up from deep down under
    the surface is just about as clean as you can get – no bacteria, no
    viruses and no parasites.Akito Yamamoto, the man behind the project,
    calls it “magic water” – not too hot and not too cold; a constant 21C
    (70F) which is just right for vigorous tuna to swim around in.The water
    flows in circles in each tank – creating an effect like a treadmill for
    the 15 fish in each tank.They need to keep moving to keep breathing.
    Normally well-travelled fish, they are capable of crossing the Atlantic
    in less than 50 days.Here, though, in the confines of the tank, every
    detail has been designed to keep them happy and healthy.The tuna have
    to be shown where to swim, so there are streams of bubbles flowing away
    from the edges of the tanks which guide the tuna away from the
    sides.All this equipment has cost thousands of dollars, and has been
    developed specially, with no guarantee that it will actually work and
    produce full-size healthy tuna.The blue-fin will not be big enough to
    breed or be eaten for at least three years.”I know some people are
    puzzled about why I am spending so much on this,” said Mr Yamamoto.
    “But I am trying to make a facility that could be used for 10 or 20
    years.”"However much we spend it’s worth it if we can provide safe food
    for consumers.”

    Wild vs farmed fish
    is clearly a labour of love, but how will he feel when the time comes
    to send his fish to the market to be slaughtered for the first time?”It
    will be like sending my daughters off to get married,” he says with a
    grin. “Joy and sadness.” But will he be eating them? “Definitely!”The
    risk, of course, is that the farmed blue-fin tuna will not be as tasty
    as the wild ones.At a nearby sushi restaurant the chef Yutaka Kuroda
    skilfully fillets large pieces of tuna, cutting the delicate slices for
    the lunchtime orders.He says it will be hard to persuade his customers
    to make the switch.”The quality of farmed tuna is improving, mainly
    because they feed them better,” he said. “I don’t think it tastes all
    that bad, but still most Japanese people believe a wild tuna tastes
    better than a farmed one.”The reality is of course that in the end the
    Japanese may have no choice. Sushi from farmed fish could one day be
    the only option on the menu.The huge appetite for fresh wild fish today
    may mean that tomorrow there is none left in the oceans, so farmed
    blue-fin tuna may be a taste they have to get used to.