News Letter Vol.5
Kinki University 21st Century COE Program English Site > News Letter Vol.5
After an interim review

Hidemi Kumai (COE Leader)

On May 9, a hearing on our 21st COE Program 'Center for Aquaculture Science and Technology for Bluefin Tuna and Other Cultivated Fish' was held as part of interim review at Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. From this site, President Hiroyuki Hatake, Professor Seiichiro Ono, Professor Kenji Takii, and COE Leader Hidemi Kumai attended the hearing. Time given to us for presentation was ten minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A session.

At the beginning, President Hatake gave a one-minute powerful policy speech, as the administrator of the Kinki University COE Program, to the effect that the University will provide total human, physical, and financial support to this site's plans and implementation in order to establish a powerful management system for research, education, and administration. The rest of the time was spent by the COE Leader giving a presentation mainly of the achievements in the past two years, addressing the questions notified in advance. As the space here is limited, I will give only the gist of the presentation below.

The purpose of this site is to establish a safe and steady culture industry covering all the processes from cultured fish production to supply and provide it to the world. For this end, it is absolutely necessary to establish and utilize a 'full culture system'. Our presentation at the hearing focused on the researches in individual fields conducted by four groups about the process from production to supply at this site and on the establishment, through close coordination of the results of these researches, of a system for supplying safe and high quality cultured fish on a perpetual basis. With respect to the other focused issue of this COE, that is, the development of young researchers, we aim to develop researchers ready for work who can assist the frontlines of the culture industry. For this end, it is necessary to develop specialists who have high expertise in particular fields, but we stressed that, at this site, we are trying to develop world-class researchers who have a wide perspective and knowledge to understand the culture industry in general, by teachers in different fields providing guidance and training.

We also explained about the prospects and possibilities for incubating the culture industry in Asia and creating ventures, the incubation and development of the tuna culture industry, and resource reinforcement for endangered species. The comprehensive evaluation of this site at this interim review was that 'the original plan has been put into practice steadily and it is believed that the purpose can be achieved if the current efforts are continued'. Also, we received a few comments on the contents. For the remaining two years, bearing these comments in mind, we have to address the remaining issues and work toward establishing a world-class center for supporting the bluefin tuna and other fish culture industry.

21st 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 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 (one of whom joined in October 2005). Our Group's research themes are as follows.

(1) Analysis of bluefin tuna culture management in Japan
At present, there are some 30 bluefin tuna culture sites in the western part of Japan extending to Mie Prefecture to the north, many of which are managed by large companies. Various problems have begun to surface. Thus, we are analyzing market and production conditions for culture management, understanding management responses to them, and examining the course of action. The culture of bluefin tuna is characterized by high price and high risk. However, recent years have seen a decline in the price while the risk remaining high. Thus, we have to maintain and raise the price and lower the risk.

Measures to maintain and raise the price may include the improvement of flesh quality, the strengthening of sales capabilities, and the avoidance of overproduction. With respect to sales, it is necessary to strengthen marketing capabilities at the sales phase since the relationship with mass-merchandisers, who are major buyers at present, has its own limits. With respect to overproduction, since there are limits to the procurement of seedling and fisheries, an excessive increase may be checked if production is limited to domestic one. Measures to reduce the risk may include steady business with mass-merchandisers under contract and the shipment of one or two-year-old fish for early sales.

(2) Research on the commercialization of cultured tuna at mass-merchandisers and the sushi market
The market for cultured tuna, which was originally intended as a substitute for natural fatty tuna, has expanded to cover general consumers, such as mass-merchandisers and sushi-go-round restaurants. Sudden price drops may occur during this process and the main cause is sharp increases in supply, but attention should also be paid to movements at the downstream, that is, the fact that demand by mass-merchandisers has become the cornerstone and mass-merchandisers have increased tuna sales from a strategic point of view. It is assumed that mass-merchandisers' effort to increase the sale of cultured tuna may reflect a change in the fatty tuna marketing scheme and merchandizing may lead to the ability to negotiate the price with the mid-stream and upstream sectors. Thus, this research tries to understand the distribution of cultured tuna and price forming factors from mass-merchandisers' purchase and sales patterns. During the process of the expansion of the cultured tuna market, cultured tuna has played the leading part in fatty tuna sales campaigns since the late 90s. The sales of cultured tuna has led to a rise in the fatty tuna sales ratio and an expansion of the lineup at mass-merchandisers, while inducing a change in the position of tuna with red flesh including big-eyed tuna. We are also investigating the sushi market, the second largest market after mass-merchandisers, especially at sushi-go-round restaurants.

(3) Comparison of the southern bluefin tuna culture industry in Australia and tuna fishing in Japan and Taiwan
In addition to the researches on the domestic tuna culture industry mentioned in (1) and (2), we are trying to understand the status of overseas production as tuna culturing and fishing overseas has a substantial impact on our country's consumer market and distribution industry. The tuna culture industry in Australia, which started in the early 90s, expanded rapidly from the late 90s to 2000 and grew a core fishing industry in South Australia, bringing large economic effects to the local economy. However, recently the industry has not been expanding as much because the increased production of cultured tuna around the world is fueling competition between culture sites and because increased competition in the international market has reduced the ability of culture businesses to negotiate the price. Countermeasures may include the exploitation of new markets, cost cuts, and product differentiation. Taiwan is the largest tuna importer for Japan and is a strong competitor for Japan's tuna fishing industry, which has become an importing industry. It is important to understand where the competitiveness gap between Japan and Taiwan comes from. The direct cause may be the differences in wage, hence labor management, between Japan and Taiwan.