Clean Seas confident aquaculture can feed the world

Posted by Isobel Drake on 1st December 2009

South Australian aquaculture pioneer Clean Seas Tuna believes they can replace Australia’s entire 23 per cent cut in Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) quota with sustainable aquaculture-bred SBT well within five years.

Speaking at an international aquaculture science symposium being held in Adelaide today, Clean Seas founder and director, Hagen Stehr, said the company aimed to produce and commence grow-out of 25,000 Southern Bluefin Tuna juveniles at its land-based breeding facility at Arno Bay in the coming year.

“This is a very conservative estimate as we are committed to walking before we run,” Mr Stehr said. “However, it is entirely within possibility that we will far exceed that number in the next few years given the success of our collaboration partner Kinki University in Japan with Northern Bluefin Tuna.”

Last month, Kinki University transferred 190,000 aquaculture-bred Northern Bluefin Tuna (NBT) juveniles from its hatchery into sea cages off Japan – roughly equivalent to Australia’s total adjusted Southern Bluefin Tuna quota of 4,015 tonnes.

“It is highly realistic that in the medium term, Clean Seas will achieve the same production levels – effectively duplicating Australia’s Southern Bluefin Tuna wild catch quota every year,” Mr Stehr said.

And leading aquaculture scientists endorse his view.

“Clean Seas is on the same trajectory as Kinki University,” according to Professor Chris Bridges of Dusseldorf University. “While Clean Seas is targeting lower production initially, the sophistication of its unique landbased facility at Arno Bay should allow greater control over accelerating its production trajectory with the result that it could emulate Kinki’s NBT production regime well within a decade.”

“South Australia is also fortunate to have extensive, clean waters around its coast suitable for the sustainable grow-out of significant quantities of seafood.”

Mr Stehr said Clean Seas had achieved in three years, what Kinki had pioneered with NBT over 36 years and he praised the global view on food security demonstrated by Kinki and the Japanese government through their provision of technical support to Clean Seas’ breeding program. Collaboration between Kinki University and Clean Seas has involved the international exchange of scientists and members of Clean Seas’ technical team*.

It was announced in October that Australia’s share of the worldwide quota would be reduced from 5,265 tonnes to 4,015 tonnes (a decrease of 23.4%). Substantial quota cuts for Northern Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean are also being recommended by an increasing number of European Union countries, with some countries considering total closure of the fishery.

At the same time, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says global demand for seafood is growing at about 1.1 per cent annually, courtesy of demand from Asia and other emerging markets. They have also advised that a 70 per cent increase in total food production is likely to be needed by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population.

Mr Stehr contends that aquaculture is among the more viable means of meeting this growing demand for food.

“It is predicted that aquaculture will grow to supply more than 50 per cent of global seafood production within the next two to three years and Bluefin Tuna is poised to contribute strongly to filling the gap between supply and demand for healthy seafood with an unprecedented level of collaboration between experts across the globe,” he suggested.

* Clean Seas has also had the support of AusIndustry, the Australian Seafood CRC, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, University of Sunshine Coast, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Flinders University, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Northern Territory Department of Regional Development / Primary Industry / Fisheries and Resources, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, Hellenic Center for Marine Research, Heinrich-Heine Universität, University of Maryland, EU research consortiums SELFDOTT and REPRODOTT, Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Tuna Research and Conservation Center.