At a time when a global conservation group is warning of the possible extinction of bluefin tuna, Japanese university laboratory researchers have succeeded in artificially hatching eggs of a similar species of the big fish and developing them into fry in joint research with an Australian aquaculture company.
In a feat said to be the first of its kind in the world, members of the Fisheries Laboratory, Kinki University, in the town of Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture, and Australia's Clean Seas Tuna Ltd succeeded in July in their attempt to breed southern bluefin tuna fry -- a development that could open the way for the cultivation of tuna, a high-grade fish meat in Japan.
Southern bluefin tuna live in waters in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean and many are consumed in Japan as sushi and sashimi.
The World Wide Fund for Nature announced in April that the breeding population of bluefin tuna -- another variety of the fish that Japanese relish -- in the Mediterranean and East Atlantic will disappear in three years if overfishing continues in those areas.
The Japanese researchers and Clean Seas Tuna, a company headquartered in Port Lincoln that operates commercial fish breeding facilities in Australia, concluded an academic agreement in September last year to start joint research.
They induced southern bluefish tuna to spawn eggs during the period from late February to April in Clean Seas facilities in south central Australia. Following the artificial incubation, the Kinki University team worked with those facilities to help cultivate the eggs to grow into about 40 small fish weighing 250 grams each.
Many researchers have great expectations of this development, hoping that if it enables complete cultivation of tuna it will help declining tuna stocks recover and expand the nation's fish breeding industry.
Kinki University succeeded in complete breeding of bluefin tuna in 2002 and has the technology for improving their survival rate by changing feed in accordance with their growth. The researchers applied their know-how in raising bluefin tuna to the latest project.
Osamu Murata, director of the Fisheries Laboratory, said both sides ''hurled their good points in techniques involving artificial incubation and breeding at each other to bring forth good results.''
''The accumulation of the know-how on bluefin tuna led to the latest success,'' said Tokio Wada, chief of the research management department at the Fisheries Research Agency, an incorporated administrative agency in Yokohama. ''It's an achievement indispensable for the protection of bluefin tuna.''
Kinki University is ready to offer its state-of-the-art expertise gained in the cultivation of bluefin tuna to others worldwide engaged in aquaculture research as it is pursues cooperation with foreign research bodies. The joint research conducted in Australia was part of its global cooperation campaign.
Tomoyoshi Yoshinaga, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, called the latest success ''a big step'' in research into the cultivation of tuna.
He said the complete cultivation of tuna is a developing industry and hopes it will grow smoothly.© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.