Tuna Fish at Rolls-Royce Prices

Letter to the editor:

The world's largest tuna fish - the Atlantic bluefin tuna - is the Rolls-Royce of the sea, but has the seafaring nation of Norway realised this? We catch 40 tonnes of this tuna fish and supply it in bulk at practically tinned prices. Had we instead carefully slaughtered them one by one, we would have been able to supply them at Rolls-Royce prices instead of the price of scrap metal.

This article was last updated more than two years ago.

Letter to the editor:

This article was printed in Fiskeribladet on February 28th, 2017.

Global fishing must be sustainable and the seafaring nation of Norway should be proud of how it collaborates with neighbouring countries to manage resources. Together with correct management we also need to further develop the fisheries so that we can supply even better quality and ensure good financial sustainability for the fisheries.

Deserving of respect

Tore Hillersøy (captain of the M/S Hillersøy coastal fishing vessel) and his crew deserve our respect and admiration for having defended and maintained our historical rights to this vast fishing ground. The same people now deserve our help and support in getting the nation where it belongs among international fishing countries, the captain’s chair.

Over a number of years, the ICAT organisation has managed to build the tuna population that spawns in the Mediterranean and that grow large and thus valuable to us through an abundance of food, back up to previous levels. This means that we can now harvest from it again. The rule about being able to harvest a certain volume each year applies to all renewable resources, provided the population remains stable. Naturally, there are costs associated with the catching and storage of live fish at optimal quality.

Nofima has observed live storage of tuna for more than 20 years and collaborates with players in both the Mediterranean and Australia. The transition from the tinned food industry to catch-based aquaculture was complex, especially in Australia. They had reason to be proud of the landed value, which quickly increased from NOK 10 to NOK 1000 per kilo. We cannot expect similar results in Norway, but we can hope, as our tuna have the best conditions in the world.

Live catching researched

Nofima has been carrying out research on live catching for many years and has developed extensive knowledge that has been transferred to industry. With the creativity and innovation in place, especially following the decline in oil prices, there is room for innovations that could help Captain Hillersøy and others.  We learned about sorting, feeding, slaughtering and product development from the researchers in Australia. How can we help the fishermen to allow them to assume leading market positions? The answer is logistics.

Let us split the strategy in two: Throughout its historical presence and annual feeding migration along the Norwegian coast, the tuna has shown that it most likely has the necessary biological prerequisites to become one of our new fish farming species. It would therefore be sensible to start the learning curve with live storage. It is unlikely to spawn in our waters but we can obtain fertilised eggs from Malta or Sicily. And the production of marine juveniles is one thing that we are world leaders at.

Nofima, with its national centre of excellence for catch-based aquaculture and live seafood, is working with the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF) to optimise the quality of several species through live storage, as is now recommended for tuna.

By also adapting and implementing these technologies for haddock (related to cod), which cannot withstand catch management as well, we anticipate being able to substantially increase the landed value. What these strategies have in common is that the efforts will be directed at ensuring fresh products throughout the entire year.

Aquaculture and petroleum

Step two is to use the two other pillars of the Norwegian coastal industry: the aquaculture and petroleum industries. In order to take shelter behind the islets at Bulandet, the caught tuna have to be towed in a 90-metre netpen, a size that is now being phased out for use in the aquaculture industry. With the current situation with low day rates for supply vessels, it could be conceivable for the  netpen to be transported to the field using such vessels. It would be very interesting to test this theory and, together with the Institute for Marine Research, Nofima is prepared to assume responsibility for such a research project.

If we succeed, Norway will become an important player in the sushi and sashimi market with more than just salmon, by also providing Atlantic bluefin tuna as a raw material. Top quality at Rolls-Royce prices. Worthy of a seafaring nation!

 Capture-based aquaculture  

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