News Letter Vol.10
Kinki University 21st Century COE Program English Site > News Letter Vol.10
21st Century COE Program 'Center for Aquaculture Science and Technology for Bluefin Tuna and Other Cultivated Fish'
A detailed introduction to and the current status of the research activities of the Economics and Distribution Group

Seiichiro Ono (Economics and Distribution Group, Graduate School of Agriculture)

The Economics and Distribution Group consists of two teachers of the Graduate School of Agriculture and four COE doctorate researchers. This time, we would like to report the achievements attained between News Letter Volume 5 (2005) and 2007 academic year. In the last volume, we reported mainly on the 'Analysis of bluefin tuna culture management in Japan', 'Commercialization of cultured tuna by mass retailers', 'The status of Southern tuna culture production in Australia', and 'A comparison of tuna fishing in Japan and Taiwan'.

The food system involving tuna in general is now forced to change, and our ultimate goal is to depict a food system built around cultured tuna as the driving force, and study and elucidate a business system for cultured tuna. Our recent major achievements include a deeper understanding of the mid-stream, the downstream and end consumption, and an analysis of the Southern tuna business system and structural characteristics thereof.

(1) Import and sales of cultured tuna
We examined tuna dealings and competition from the business behavior of distributors who link overseas production sites to domestic consumers. First, in the late 90s, distributors involved in the general purchasing of frozen natural tuna began to invest in tuna culture joint ventures and launch into the import and domestic sales of cultured tuna, with the result that business at both the upstream and the mid-stream expanded vertically. Cultured tuna accounts for 20-30% of all the tuna sales of general purchasers, while accounting for 90% of all the tuna sales of major marine product companies. Secondly, local cargo collection requires large advances, so the amount of collection is defined by financial power. The recent decline in profitability has resulted in greater dependence of culture businesses upon importers in terms of finance and marketing, hence the more severe selection of business partners. The market is becoming increasingly oligopolistic, as shown by the fact that 60% of cultured tuna imports are handled by the top seven companies.

(2) Transformation of domestic distribution
Oligopoly is greater at the distribution stage than at the import stage, the top five distributors accounting for 60% of all cultured tuna dealings. A trial calculation of the out-of-market distribution rate for leading distributors shows that the rate jumped up from a marginal 5% in 1995 to 72% in 2003. Wholesale markets remain as subsidiary channels complementary to out-of-market distribution. The oligopolistic structure has been strengthened as conditions for horizontal competition have become tighter at the many steps of the import and domestic sales process. There is rationale and motivation for importers to establish cooperative business relationships with the upstream and the downstream or increase out-of-market sales in order to secure and increase their market shares.

(3) Study of the sushi market, especially the sushi-go-round restaurants
Sushi-go-round restaurants are a big market for cultured tuna, but their demand characteristics and business structure are in the black box. We analyzed the cultured tuna commercialization process at sushi-go-round restaurants. Since the late 90s, cultured tuna has penetrated into the sushi-go-round restaurant industry due to the price falls, changing from a 'Product to differentiate the restaurant from others' to a 'Standard product which can attract many customers'. As a result, the focus of competition has expanded to encompass 'How to derive profit from fatty tuna sushi' in addition to 'Whether the restaurant can offer cultured tuna'. Since 2005, the price of cultured tuna has generally been on the increase, so there is a limit to the effort to secure profit by cutting the purchase price. It is necessary to introduce logistics and establish low-cost operations.

(4) Characteristics of tuna products at the consumption stage
A study of the consumers' images of tuna products shows that they feel there is no difference in taste, but cultured ones are not as safe as natural ones. When we measured and calculated monetary evaluations according to attributes information, we found that the consumers rate domestically produced tuna as approximately 600 JPY higher than foreign ones, natural tuna as approximately 300 JPY higher than cultured ones, and raw tuna as approximately 100 JPY higher than frozen ones. And looking at dioxin and methyl mercury in connection with the safety of tuna products, we found that there is a certain amount of potential demand for safety action. The consumers are willing to pay around 140 JPY per 600 JPY of tuna product for safety action.

(5) Southern tuna business system and structural characteristics thereof
We elucidated the characteristics of the cultured Southern tuna business which links the culture companies and the consumers together. The value chain for cultured Southern tuna is composed of many phases, in which culture businesses, primary wholesalers, and retailers are key players. In order to adjust the supply demand gap, there should be comprehensive SCM for inventories in preserves, frozen inventories, and passing inventories. The additional value forms a large smile curve at the upstream culture companies and the downstream retailers, and unique technology exists at the breeding and end retail stages. Relationships between economic entities responsible for each process in the value chain range from long-term fixed ones to short-term spot ones.

Report on the 2006 3rd Symposium for the 21st Century COE Program
'Worldwide decrease in tuna sources and countermeasures' and 'Achievement report by each Group'

Kenji Takii (Symposium committee, Fisheries Laboratory)

On February 24, 2007, we held a 2006 Results Report Meeting entitled 'Worldwide decrease of tuna sources and countermeasures' and 'Achievement report by each Group' at the Kinki University November Hall, Small Hall.

Satoshi Munakata, Vice President of Kinki University, gave an opening address to the effect that there is deep concern about the recent decrease of tuna sources and he expects the persons involved in this COE Program to make further effort to dispel this concern. Then, COE Leader Hidemi Kumai reported that this research site began to be formed in 2003, useful and valuable knowledge has been accumulated over years, and we are now in a position to mass-produce seedling for bluefin tuna, and that a large number of brilliant young researchers who studied at this site are now making contributions to the development of the fish culture industry in and outside of Japan.

In Part 1 'Worldwide decrease in tuna sources and countermeasures', Dr. Naozumi Miyabe, Director of Temperate Tuna Source Department, National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, Fisheries Research Agency gave a report, with an intermission, on ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) and WCPFC (Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean).

In his ICCAT report on the current status of Atlantic bluefin tuna and its management, Dr. Miyabe explained that the fishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna virtually began when Japanese long-liners operated there in the 60s, that at present the U.S., Canada, Spain, France, and Italy are major fishing countries, that although an estimate shows that the catch in the West Atlantic is considerably lower than that in the East Atlantic, sufficient data are not available and it is difficult to make an accurate source evaluation, but even so, the Atlantic bluefin sources threaten to be depleted. He further reported that measures for strict source management will be developed, including the reduction of fishing quotas, the tightening of small fish regulations, the strengthening of the closed seasons, and the figuring out of the number of stocked and cultured fish.

In his WCPFC report on the bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna in the Midwestern Pacific and their management, he explained that in the 80s, small/large round net fishing was introduced in addition to the conventional long-lining, resulting in a substantial catch increase, and recent years have seen a sharp rise in the catch of small fishes like bigeye tuna and yellowfin tuna, and that these species are not in such a serious condition as Atlantic bluefin tuna and Southern tuna are in, but a management plan to regulate catches by long-lining and round-netting was developed since an over-fishing situation is still observed.

The 2008 results reports given at Part 2 included a report by Professor Takeshi Yamane, Environmental Conservation and Source Dynamism Group, Graduate School of Agriculture on an estimate related to the dynamism of yellowfin tuna sources in sea waters near the Philippines, a report by Associate Professor Keitaro Kato, Seedling Production and Culture Group, Fisheries Laboratory on research related to the development of the growth hormone gene of bluefin tuna, a report by COE Researcher Ji Seung-Chul, Food Safety, Processing, and Animal Feed Group on the development of feed for bluefin tuna, and a report by Associate Professor Ken Hidaka, Economics and Distribution Group, Graduate School of Agriculture on an international comparison of tuna culture management systems. The 2006 10th Symposium successfully ended with a closing speech of Professor Osamu Murata, Graduate School of Agriculture.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation for the great support of all the persons concerned, including the many participants, in the administration of this symposium.

21st Century COE Program 2006 4th Symposium
Seminar and Workshop on Aquaculture Biotechnology 'Prospects for Blue Revolution'

Yoshizumi Nakagawa, COE Doctorate Researcher (Seedling Production and Culture Group, Fisheries Laboratory)

I attended the Seminar and Workshop on Aquaculture Biotechnology 'Prospects for Blue Revolution' held at the University Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute from March 14 to 15, 2007. This symposium was intended as part of education for graduate school doctoral course students and young researchers with a doctor's degree. Nine persons participated in this symposium from Japan, including Professor Mitsuru Eguchi, Associate Professor Keitaro Kato, five graduate school doctorate students (two of whom received a doctor's degree in March), and two COE doctoral researchers (including the reporter). Participants from Malaysia, including young researchers of University Malaysia Sabah, gave presentations on 11 subjects. An opening ceremony began with a speech of Y. Bhg. Prof. Datuk. Dr. Mohd. Noh Dalimin, President of University Malaysia Sabah and then Professor Eguchi, Associate Professor Kato, and Professor Shigeharu Seo, the University Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute, gave lectures on the function of bacteria which purify fish farms, breed improvement for marine cultured fish, and the management of fish farms. After the lectures, Associate Professor Kato and CEO Doctorate Researcher Kenichi Yokoi conducted a workshop on the freezing preservation of marine fish sperms with liquid nitrogen. The young researchers of the University Malaysia Sabah and hatchery people listened carefully to learn the technique, and actually tried it. After the workshop, the young researchers gave research presentations. All the presentations, questions and answers, and discussions were conducted in English. The presentations covered a wide range of interesting subjects such as seedling production, the prevention of diseases in fish, feed development, the development of initial feed, breeding environment, and crossbred fish.

During the seminar and the workshop, we had an opportunity to visit the hatchery of the University Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute, fish farms near the university, and a vast shrimp culture site (owned by AgroBest). The schedule was tight, but none of the experiences we had there can be gained in Japan. I was really impressed to see everybody was moved. I'm sure that these wonderful experiences will positively affect the research activities of each one of us.

This time, young researchers acted as points of contact for the University Malaysia Sabah and Kinki University to make necessary preparations. They are Sharifah Noor Emilia (Emi), a student of the University Malaysia Sabah who will enter the masters course of the Graduate School of Agriculture, Kinki University in April, Hiroko Matsubara, a masters course student of University Malaysia Sabah, and the reporter and Gentoku Nakase, a graduate school doctoral course student, both from Kinki University. We sincerely thank Ms. Emi and Ms. Matsubara for all aspects of our stay in Malaysia, including the program and the schedule. However, all the seminar and workshop participants could not have experienced the extraordinary success of the seminar and the workshop without the cooperation of the President of University Malaysia Sabah, Prof. Dr. Saleem Mustafa, Director of the University Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute, Professor Seo and all the staff, Professor Eguchi and Associate Professor Kato, and all the participants, Mr. Noriaki Akazawa, President of AgroBest, Mr. Lim Bee Chai, Vice President of AgroBest, Mr. Hiroyuki Endo, and Mr. Wan Samad Wan Hasan, and other people of AgroBest. We sincerely appreciate for their cooperation and their giving us such valuable opportunities. I would like to conclude this report with a note that the seminar and the workshop started with 'Yes' and ended with excitement.

Report on Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 4th Session on 'Small thing's big job'

Erina Nagata, COE Doctorate Researcher (Environmental Conservation Group, Graduate School of Agriculture)

<Cafe> The Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 4th Session was held on December 9 (Saturday), 2006 at Ashibi-no-sato in Nara Town. The Environmental Conservation Group administered this session on 'Small thing's big job'. We talked about the latest studies of microbial ecology in terms of 'The big jobs done by small things which are inconvenient to the human' and 'The big jobs done by small things which are convenient to the human'. As we wanted to offer as many attractive topics as possible, we covered a wide range of subjects, from pathogenic bacteria, which the participants can easily imagine, to microbes which protect the environment of fish farm waters. At the table discussion, the participants advanced many questions and opinions about all the topics, showing their deep interest.

<Take a look at your bacteria! A simple experiment> At this session, we not only offered topics, but also conducted a simple experiment. It is as simple as putting the palm on an agar plate to culture bacteria, but since it is an unusual experience, all the participants seemed to enjoy the experiment. After two weeks' cultivation, the photographs of the cultured bacteria will be posted at the website of Science Cafe (each participant is assigned a unique number to identify his/her own picture), all the participants and the other COE staff said they were looking forward to seeing the pictures two weeks later. The photographs of colonies (groups of bacteria) on the agar plate are made available at the website simultaneously with the publication of this report.

<Exhibition> On the tables, we exhibited the seawater and tap water of the River Tomio, the Sarusawa Pond, and the Tanabe Bay in Wakayama Prefecture in test tubes, together with micrographs of microbes contained in these waters. We also set up an display section in the Cafe, exhibiting the colonies of bacteria living on the human fingers and toes, jaw and tongue, bacteria living on the pad, tongue and nose of a pet (dog), fallen bacterial inside and outside the room, bacteria in fish tanks, and bacteria in rivers, created on agar plates, together with photographs of us taking the samples. These exhibits helped the participants very much to learn of the existence of invisible microbes and we received various questions and opinions at the tables, enjoying brisk discussions. Even after the Cafe was closed, the participants asked the staff questions at the display section.

<Participants> The participants included three elementary school kids, one junior high student, and one high school student. The average age seemed to be rather high, and we tried to help the participants to understand the presentations and slides easily, showing the experiment and the summary in animations. These efforts seem to have been fairly effective, according to the responses to the questionnaire. The display section was popular with the participants in all age brackets.

<Cafe management> The general audience has been increasing little by little, possibly due to the advertisements. The number of accesses to the website has also been rising steadily. We have been getting better with our presentations thanks to the two rehearsals. Having finished four sessions, we are now able to manage the Cafe more skillfully. I will use the know-how obtained at Science Cafe in my future activities.

Report on Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 5th Session on 'Behind the pricing of cultured tuna'

Shinichi Kitano, COE Doctoral Researcher (Economics and Distribution Group, Graduate School of Agriculture)

<Cafe> We held the Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 5th Session on February 3 (Saturday), the day before the beginning of spring, at Ashibi-no-sato in Nara Town. The theme for this session was 'Behind the pricing of cultured tuna'. The Economics and Distribution Group offered a topic related to economics and distribution with which the general public should be more familiar than with natural science, which was the focus of the previous sessions. We started topic selection around August and prepared a blueprint around September. Our objective was to link together three reports (on production, distribution, and consumption) revolving around 'Price' and 'Cost' so that the participants will have a better knowledge and understanding of tuna products and the commercialization of tuna. Fortunately, we received 37 general participants, an all-time high, possibly due to the TV coverage around the turn of the year. The participants included a person aged over 70 and elementary school kids (attended by their parents), and this showed how much the general public are interested in the price of tuna. As mentioned above, we gave three reports on production, distribution, and consumption, centering on the price of tuna. First, we talked about how the shipping price is determined at the production site and what kinds of risks the culture business is exposed to. Based on this, we gave a detailed explanation of price increases at each stage of distribution and the mechanism thereof. We also presented the results of our study of how the buyers of tuna products think about the various products. The general participants seemed to be interested very much in the risks involved in the collection of tuna at the production site and the mechanism of price increases in the distribution stage.

<Film, slide show, poster> Since the theme for this session related to economics and distribution, we could not provide experiments and samples. Thus we used a film and photographs to show how tuna products reach the kitchen, and put up posters which show the status of the market and provide information about fisheries in Japan. The film was about the process from the catching of cultured tuna in Mexico to their transportation to Japan. The participants seemed to be interested especially in the video images showing large-scale tuna catching and the collection of tuna from a preserve. We also gave a slide show about a day at a tuna culture site, using photographs taken in Australia, where we conducted a research. We exhibited posters to provide data on marine product production and consumption in Japan and the mechanism of distribution, and prepared and put up materials that explain about tuna fisheries and production around the world. The materials included illustrations of tuna auction and slaughter, tools used in the market, etc., and some participants read the materials carefully.

<Discovery and problem> According to the opinions written in the free space of the questionnaire sheet, participants tend to be very pleased to see films and slide shows during the break. Actually, when we showed a film 'Cultured tuna overseas — From Mexico to Japan —' during the break, most of the participants gazed at the screen without leaving for the restroom. We suffered from a lack of sufficient help during the program since the audience was the largest we ever received. Tea and snack were offered during the table discussion session, so there was a lack of sufficient help at some tables. I felt it is necessary to change the preparations and the staffing flexibly according to the size of the audience. The comprehensive discussion did not go smoothly as we had not determine the procedures in advance. We assigned 70 minutes to the first presentation session and 40 minutes to the second presentation session, but some participants said in their responses to the questionnaire that more time should be assigned for the lecturers to answer the questions and give more detailed, concrete explanations or that the table discussion is not necessary, the comprehensive discussion (Q&A session) is enough. There is room for the improvement of the program and the proceeding.

Report on Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 6th Session on 'How to breed safe, tasty fish'

Yoshizumi Nakagawa, COE Doctorate Researcher (Seedling Production and Culture Group, Fisheries Laboratory)

<Cafe> We held the Science Cafe @ Kindai COE 6th Session on March 10 (Saturday) at the tearoom on the second floor of the cafeteria on the Kinki University Graduate School of Agriculture campus. A Fisheries Laboratory group was responsible for this session, which centered on 'How to breed safe, tasty fish'. Now that marine product consumption has been declining, the main objective of this session was to have the consumers understand how the cultured fish they see in the supermarkets is bred.

We talked about the fish production process, citing bluefin tuna for example. We reported that the production process involves various problems which are critical to the survival of the fish and the survival rate has been improved by clearing these problems through a scientific approach. Next, we talked about how tasty fish is produced. Although the taste of fish has many elements, the major ones should be fattiness and tenderness. We talked about research to make tuna more tender. Lastly, we gave a presentation of the safety of cultured fish. We told the participants that there are many things that compromise the safety of cultured fish and Fisheries Laboratory is working on drugs, among other things. The general participants seemed to be interested very much in the bluefin tuna production process and the safety of cultured fish.

<Video and exhibition> At this session, we exhibited the larvae of red sea bream and tiger globefish, which are major products in current production. Many general participants studied the tanks before the opening of the Cafe and during the break. Many participants were invited to feed the larvae and seemed to be pleased to see tiger globefish eating the feed. The larval red sea bream seemed not accustomed to a fully transparent tank and we were disappointed that we could not see them rush to the feed. After the Cafe was closed, we gave the larvae to those who wanted them, free of charge. It is difficult to breed saltwater fish, so we are afraid that the larvae won't survive long.

<Discovery and problem> When we were considering the composition of our presentations after determining the theme, we found an article in an aquaculture magazine saying that, according to a questionnaire survey conducted, many people think cultured fish is not expensive. It also said that many people think fish is a bother or just stinks or they don't know how to cook it. There were brisk exchanges of opinions at the Q&A session, though we had expected otherwise before the opening of the Cafe. Therefore, 30 minutes seemed rather short for the Q&A session and I personally think that we should do something to encourage the participants to come again, instead of satisfying them in one session.

This time, the staff in Nara helped us in all aspects of preparation. We would like to express our sincere appreciation. When Fisheries Laboratory does this activity in Nara, it cannot send a sufficient number of people due to the great travel expenses needed, ultimately causing a lot of trouble to the staff in Nara. Though it is not determined yet whether the Science Cafe will be opened next year, we should consider opening it in Wakayama. But it is very significant to open the Cafe in Nara, a prefecture not facing the sea at any side, so Nara was a good choice for this session.

A survey of bluefin tuna in Mexico by the Economics and Distribution Group

Shigeru Miyashita (Seedling Production and Culture Group, Fisheries Laboratory)

I participated in an investigative team organized by the Economics and Distribution Group, led by Professor Seiichiro Ono and managed by Associated Professor Ken Hidaka (Professor Ono could not join actually). Bluefin tuna culture in Mexico is said to have begun around 1996 and now 12 companies operate around Ensenada, approximately 100km south of the Mexico-U.S. border. Recently, around 3,000 tons of tuna have been produced a year, almost the same level as Japan.

The investigate team departed from Kansai Airport on February 26 and arrived at San Diego Airport, near the Mexico-U.S. boarder, via San Francisco, and from there went by car to Ensenada via Tijuana, a town on the border. Ensenada is a resort town on the Pacific coast, located near the base of California Peninsula. This town attracts many tourists from the U.S., but looked more like Cartagena, one of the leading bluefin tuna culture sites in Spain. Even more so because they speak Spanish. However, the bare mountains were green unlike those in Cartagena which are rocky and bleak, and as we came nearer, we found the mountains were covered with low cactuses and possibly related varieties of plants and was reminded that we were in Mexico. Ensenada has a population of about 300,000 and looks like a rough Spanish town. We were surprised that there are few traffic signals except in major cities and the car going into the intersection first has precedence. Like in Spain, we were impressed by the fact that the pedestrians are always given precedence at the intersections without traffic signals.

We first visited the Programa Nacional de Aprovechamiento del Atun y de Proteccion de Delfines and heard a lecture of Dr. Guillermo, Office Director, about bluefin fishing in Mexico. Then we went to Mexico's largest company Operadora Pesquera del Oriente (OPO), 51% of which is owned by a Japanese entity, and the country's second largest company Maricultural Del Norte. At OPO, which has 14 resident Japanese employees, President Yamagata and Vice President Kato accepted interviews and showed us around the site. At Maricultural, we heard a presentation of President Felipe after a site tour. Given below is an outline of it.

Fish farms
The world's bluefin tuna culture sites can be roughly divided into Japan, Mediterranean, Australia (Southern tuna), and Mexico. Mexico is a new comer which started bluefin tuna culture around ten years ago. Culture technology applied in Mexico is mostly from Australia as Japanese corporate tuna buyers which are also involved in tuna culture in Australia are operating in Mexico. Therefore, Mexico uses the same fish preserves as Australia, which are 40m in diameter and 10m - 15m deep (23m - 25m deep at the center). The depth of fish farms ranges from 40m to 60m, and one needs to obtain permission from the Fisheries Ministry as well as from the navy to open a fish farm. The number of preserves that may be installed by one company was reduced from 20 to 10, and a fisheries company which intends to expand their business elects to establish another company, but must have connections with the navy as they have to obtain its permission. They rarely suffer from hurricanes but often suffer damage due to red and blue tides, though the water appeared to be not bad.

Procurement of fish
The weight of procured bluefin tuna ranges from 10kg to 100kg, though we heard previously that they are mostly two or three years old like in Australia. The total catch limit is 170,000 tons of tunas, but there is no specific restriction for bluefin tuna. The Fisheries Ministry has given guidance to the effect that fish under 15kg should not be caught, but because it is impossible to sort them out, the guidance is taken as a kind of nonbinding target. Fish is caught by a round haul netter (1000-ton class) based at Mazatlan, Sinaloa, east of the southern end of California Peninsula and at Ensenada. Fishing is done from March, when fish schools appear south of California Peninsula, until around September, when they are off the coast of Ensenada after swimming northward along the peninsula. California Peninsula is approximately 1,200km long, so in the case of a remote fishery, it takes more than four weeks to tow the ship to the fish farm, as is the case with Australia and the Mediterranean. Mortality during towing is 20% at the highest and usually between 3% and 5%. For fish procurement, a fish culture company contracts with a round haul netter which is said to catch approximately 500 tons a year. It is difficult to calculate the fish price accurately since the catch varies according to the season and the ship and the unit price varies according to the fish size. Based on our interviews, we estimated the price at around 420 JPY per kg. The conditions attached to the Fisheries Ministry's permission state that up to 40 tons may be contained in one preserve, but in fact preserves have a capacity for 100 tons each, almost the same level as in Japan.

During this investigation, we had an opportunity to observe this period's last shipment from OPO (about 150 fish). After the fish schools in a preserve were put together with a roll net, seven or eight divers dove into water and brought one tuna after another onto a worktable connecting the ship and the preserve, putting the hands into the gills. This is the Australian way. At the worktable, groups of five or six each did their jobs skillfully, including killing, the removal of the nerves, the gills and the insides, and storage in ice. We noticed a worker who seemed to be playing (?) marbles, and asked him what he was doing. He replied that he is in charge of the important job of dispersing sea lions who come near to eat the tuna. Looking around carefully, we found a dozen of sea lions swimming around the preserve.

The landed bluefin tuna go partly to the U.S., but are mostly shipped to Japan on an airplane to Narita from Los Angeles, where they are transported to by land. The packing style is generally GG (with the gills and the insides removed), and large ones are transported raw while small ones are frozen. Small fish below 20kg are processed into loins at a HACCP-compliant factory and then vacuum-packed for shipment.

Market competitiveness
It should be noted first that OPO can buy local sardine at 10 JPY per kg for feed. It has a contract with a dozen of sardine round haul netters operating every day at the Ensenada Bay. If the catch exceeds the day's requirements, the surplus is frozen to cover a possible deficiency. The frozen feed price is 25 JPY per kg, but is still fairly cheap. As compared with Australia, where we heard that feed (sardine) is imported from Mexico at 70 JPY per kg, the feed price difference per 1kg of mature fish flesh, estimated from the flesh increase rate for tuna, reaches more than 800 JPY. We found that one of the reasons for the relatively low evaluation of Mexican tuna in the Japanese market is the use of only sardine as feed. As is indicated by OPO President Yamagata's statement that the company would like to produce high-quality tuna using mackerel, the company cannot make a decision that would bring a deficit to the company unless it can expect a high market price to cover the feed cost increase.

In the meantime, production in fiscal 2006 is expected to rise to 6,000 tons, and during the investigation, we felt the company's desire to increase its tuna culture production. The local sardine catch in the Ensenada Bay has ranged between 20,000 tons and 60,000 tons a year, so they may not be able to procure the amount of feed required for tuna production in some year. However, the catch of Mexican sardine is around ten times larger at Guaymas, located at the middle of the continental-side coast of the California Gulf, than at Ensenada, so they don't have to worry about the supply, though the magnitude of the impact of the increase in the transportation cost is not clear.

The freight charge from Los Angeles to Narita is estimated at around 500 JPY per kg, and they say it is cheaper than that from the Mediterranean and Australia. Taking the freight charge as well as the feed cost into consideration, Mexican bluefin tuna is highly competitive in the international market.

This is all we have to report, but since fish for culture in Mexico as well as in Japan is a Pacific source, if it decreases considerably, catching Pacific tuna may become an international issue. If not so, it seems still important for the two countries which share the same source to mutually provide seedling production and other technologies and exchange information while paying attention to the trend of the natural source, in order to realize sustainable culture.