In a world first, the Australian company Clean Seas Tuna has managed to successfully rear Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) in captivity. This breakthrough opens up the way for the development of an alternative to wild-caught tuna.

Clean Seas Tuna announced on April 20 that their tuna broodstock had spawned continuously during a 35-day period from March 12 to April 16, and that the company now had succeeded in raising 28-day-old 2.5 cm tuna fingerlings. During the breeding period, over 50 million fertilised eggs and 30 million larvae were produced by the captive held tunas.

This is equal to Armstrong walking on the moon,” says an elated Hagen Stehr, chairman of Clean Seas Tuna. Clean Seas Tuna now hope to breed tuna in their facilities off Port Lincoln. “The achievements are world firsts and major stepping stones to present the world with a sustainable tuna resource for the future. There are a number of other hurdles to overcome, but Australia can now achieve total sustainability in tuna.

According to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation executive director Dr Patrick Hone, farm raised tuna can be a solution to the problem of falling world-wide fish stocks and increased seafood consumption.

Australia uses 450,000 tonnes of fish a year of which 70 per cent is imported,” says Dr Hone. “Our goal is to lift farmed finfish production from about 50,000 tonnes to 100,000 tonnes annually by 2015.”

Large-scale commercial fish farming is however not a completely unproblematic endeavour from an ecological point of view and farmers will be forced to find solutions for sustainable water management, run-off handling, and food procurement if they truly wish to make farmed tuna an environmentally friendly alternative to wild caught fish.  It is however no doubt that it could provide the wild tuna population with a well needed chance to recover.