Port Lincoln Tuna Aquaculture

Fri, Jun 26th 2009, 16:57

15 years ago Port Lincoln was known for its struggling tuna canning industry. These days, Port Lincoln leads the world with a thriving Tuna Aquaculture industry that services the insatiable Japanese market.

Tuna fishing quotas were introduced in the mid-1980s by Australia, Japan and New Zealand to try to address the dwindling supply of Bluefin Tuna which is so popular in Japan. In Australia, quotas were handed to active fishermen at the time. These were privately traded and now Port Lincoln businesses hold 98% of the Australian Bluefin Tuna quotas.

Bluefin Tuna are known as the cheetahs of the sea; they can reach awesome speeds of 70 kilometres per hour, avoiding all known predators other than humans. The Tuna breed in the Indian Ocean and then schools of juvenile fish migrate to the southern oceans between December and February.

The Port Lincoln tuna farmers are on standby for this migration. Light aircraft patrol the Great Australian Bight on the lookout for the Tuna schools. Boats are on hand to capture the whole school in trailing nets and the fish are drifted back to Port Lincoln. Here the tuna are released into holding areas where they are fed for fattening, on sardines, red bait, squid or mackerel. Fattening takes about eight months before the tuna are ready for market.

The full quota of Tuna heads for Japan. Japanese fish inspectors visit Port Lincoln and select harvests that are shipped to Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan. From here the high-end restaurants select the prime fish.

There are currently 15 Tuna Farming operations in Port Lincoln.

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