Innovation Blog

 Farming Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna

 By Shlomo Maital

  Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna  A report on the BBC World Service program Discovery discusses how scientists in Malta are working on ‘farming’ Atlantic blue fin tuna.  This species of tuna is very large, in high demand, and at times a single fish can bring as much as $100,000 in Japan, where it is highly prized for sashimi.   But tuna is being overfished, and may be in danger; a UN sponsored conference meeting in Doha this week will try to declare the blue fin tuna ‘endangered’ in order to protect it, but many countries that profit from fishing will oppose the idea. 

   According to Wikipedia:    “Today, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is the foundation of one of the world’s most lucrative commercial fisheries. Medium-sized and large individuals are heavily targeted for the Japanese raw fish market, where all species of bluefin are highly prized for sashimi. This commercial importance has led to severe overfishing. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) affirmed in October 2009 that Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are declining dramatically, by 72% in the Eastern Atlantic, and by 82% in the Western Atlantic.”  

    In Malta, scientists have achieved partial success in a very difficult process: a) capture adult Atlantic blue fin tuna, in cages,  b) collect their fertilized eggs,  c) raise larvae (tiny hatched fish),  d) grow the larvae into fingerlings, and e) grow the fingerlings into adult fish, that can be harvested.  The process has been done very successfully with salmon, and now has been achieved  with sea bream and with sea bass. 

      Atlantic blue fin tuna are huge fish that grow very rapidly.  Because of their size, they could become a major source of protein worldwide.   Let us hope that the Malta scientists succeed soon, in time to save the dwindling stocks of wild tuna from extinction.  We know that below a certain size or number, it becomes impossible to save a species.  Let us hope the Atlantic tuna have not reached that point.