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Hope for Tuna Stocks

Tuna has long been one of the most popular kinds of fish in Japan. Whether served as sushi or sashimi, people just can't seem to get enough of it. But the fish's future on menus is in question. Experts at a global organization dedicated to nature conservation says Pacific bluefin tuna is at a high risk of extinction. NHK WORLD's Kurando Tago has more.

Japanese diners never run out of good things to say about tuna.

"Yummy!!"
Customer

"The taste of bluefin tuna is unexplainable. I love it."
Customer

But they aren't the only ones who enjoy a tuna dinner. Officials at the Swiss- based International Union for Conservation of Nature say the fish is also in demand in countries throughout Asia and around the world.

This love affair with tuna has placed incredible pressure on the species. With fewer large tuna remaining, fishermen are now catching younger fish, which has hurt the species' chance of reproducing.

Recently, officials from about 20 countries and regions including Japan met in the US state of California to discuss measures to help preserve the remaining stocks. They decided to cut the quota of the annual catch of bluefin tuna by 40 percent to 3,300 tons in the Eastern Pacific, starting next year. They also agreed to try to keep the catch of young fish to less than half of the quota.

And steps are being taken to increase the population through tuna farming. Japanese trading house Toyota Tsusho has joined forces with Kinki University in the business. The first farm-raised bluefin tuna will appear on the market next month. The company plans to triple the combined output by 2020 to 240 tons.

"The campaign to protect wild bluefin tuna is certain to gain momentum. That obviously means demand for sustainably cultivated tuna will grow."
Toyota Tsusho's food department / Yoshiki Miura

Efforts to preserve the fish don't stop there.

For the first time, a joint research group from Japan and Panama is growing yellowfin tuna from eggs.

Yellowfin tuna is widely used in canning and as sashimi around the world.

The researchers this week showed off young yellowfin raised at a facility in the Panamanian village of Pedasi.

"A growing number of people in Panama are coming to understand and appreciate the significance and future of the project. I look forward to its success."
Professor Yoshifumi Sawada / Kinki University

The eventual goal is to farm yellowfin and bluefin tuna from eggs on a commercial basis.

The researchers from Kinki University are hoping that their technology will help them reach that target, and assist in preserving an important and well-loved source of food.

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