Clean Seas tuna breeding update: obstacles ahead

Date of publication : 5/14/2009
Source : Adelaide Now

The Southern Bluefin Tuna at Clean Seas Tuna's Arno Bay hatchery could be worth thousands in three years.

Weigh up to 50kg each, it will be a reminder of one of the most visionary primary production breakthroughs in Australia's history. It follows Clean Seas' world-first production of southern bluefin tuna fingerlings this summer.

About 250 fingerlings have been kept from this year's trial breeding program. Clean Seas Tuna chairman Hagen Stehr said the survivors were growing so quickly they were marching towards 10cm in length after just 42 days.

Mr Stehr said the tuna were expected to reach 10kg in the first year, 20kg in the next year and up to 50kg in year three.

By comparison, the kingfish bred by Clean Seas at Arno Bay reach 1.5kg to 2kg in the first year.

Mr Stehr said it had kept three batches of fingerlings for research and development trials this year. They have been transferred to holding tanks at the hatchery because the sea water is too cold for them.

Mr Stehr said some were dying from cannibalism and others from tank collisions.

"The steering fin is not developed and because they can go 40 to 50km an hour, they are hitting their heads on the side of tanks,'' he said.

"We know how to overcome it, which we've got to do before we start growing them commercially.''

Mr Stehr said it was planned to resume breeding next November-December and place the first fingerlings in the sea after 35 days.

"We want to sell the first fish at maybe 2kg each, hopefully by Easter next year, from the batch we produce in November,'' he said.

Mr Stehr expects enormous demand for the tuna because propagated northern bluefin tuna are selling for about $150/kg at Gordon Ramsay's London restaurant.

Clean Seas said it expected to trade positively in the second half of 2008-09, with a break-even EBITDA for the full year.

It also confirmed that it was shutting down its mulloway farming program.

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