A combo platter with medium fatty tuna and very fatty tuna costs 1,580 yen (US$12.90), excluding tax. That is far less expensive than specimens caught in the wild would be priced.
The reason is that the tuna come from an aquafarm.
Large trading companies and other firms have started getting serious about the aquafarming business for bluefin tuna, a popular ingredient in premium sushi, because they can now offer consumers and restaurants a steady supply.
"It not only offers consistent flavour, but also allows one to enjoy the same quality as you would with wild tuna," said President Kazuharu Horimoto of Horimoto Co., the operator of Nama Honmaguro Isshin.
Major trading firm Sojitz Corp. provides Isshin with its aquafarmed tuna. In 2008, the trading company got into the business of raising young tuna caught in the open ocean. Sojitz shipped out around 400 tons of tuna in 2014, a four-fold increase over 2010.
Sojitz Tuna Farm Takashima Co., a Sojitz subsidiary, farms the fish off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture.
Toyo Reizo Co., Japan's largest seller of tuna and a fishery subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp., sells tuna raised from birth with artificially hatched eggs under the brand name Tuna Princess. The company has set up supply routes from aquafarms in Wakayama and Nagasaki prefectures.
In February and March of this year, Tuna Princess appeared for a limited time at outlets nationwide of the "kaiten-zushi" (rotation sushi) restaurant chain Sushiro.
Kinki University, based in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, was the first in the world to successfully raise fully aquacultured tuna from the egg to adulthood. Toyota Tsusho Corp. has partnered with the university to sell tuna under the name Kindai Maguro, and this past summer the company has begun fully aquafarming on its own. Toyota Tsusho says it wants to "take the lead in full aquafarming that is environmentally friendly."
According to the Fisheries Agency, the 14,700 tons of aquacultured bluefin tuna in 2014 marked a 50-percent increase over three years.
A major reason is that trading firms and others involved in the import of tuna are responding to tighter restrictions on catching wild tuna by starting up independent aquafarming operations.
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