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Interest grows in bluefin aquaculture as wild fishery yields decrease

According to data featured in the latest issue of EUMOFA Monthly Highlights, the high market value of bluefin tuna, combined with stagnation in wild fishery yield and issues with stocks, have increased interest in aquaculture. Malta, Spain and Croatia, with the largest bluefin aquaculture facilities, accounted for more than 95% of volume of bluefin exported from the EU in 2015. Exports have increased more than 50% since 2010 – increases that are expected to continue.

July 21, 2016

The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products (EUMOFA) has released its Monthly Highlights newsletter, featuring a case study of the Atlantic bluefin tuna market in the EU. According to data, the high market value of bluefin tuna, combined with stagnation in wild fishery yield and issues with stocks, have increased interest in aquaculture.

Malta, Spain and Croatia, with the largest bluefin aquaculture facilities, accounted for more than 95% of volume of bluefin exported from the EU in 2015. Exports have increased more than 50% since 2010 – increases that are expected to continue.

The global aquaculture production of bluefin tuna is estimated to be approximately 36,400 tonnes. Pacific bluefin tuna is cultured in Japan and Mexico, Atlantic bluefin tuna in Mediterranean countries, and Southern bluefin tuna in Australia. Malta, Spain, and Croatia reported production of 5.000, 3.000, and 2.000 tonnes, respectively. From 2006 to 2014, the aquaculture volume had an annual average increase of 2% in Malta, whereas Spain saw a 1% decline.

The low growth rates were closely tied to quotas. The fattening period for Atlantic bluefin tuna in Mediterranean countries usually lasts 3–7 months, and wild-caught specimens typically range in weight from 40 to 400 kg. The main exception is Croatia, where farming can last for up to two years. It can be assumed that the reason for the two-year fattening period is to achieve maximum size and thereby exploit the quota to the fullest.

The more recent practice of growing hatchery-reared juveniles, referred to as farming, has increased in recent years. Pacific bluefin tuna farming has been driven by Japan, which first closed the life cycle in 2002. There has also been an intensive effort in closing the life cycle of Atlantic bluefin tuna in Europe.

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