Kindai tuna , a poorly designed attempt at sustainability
A small group of U.S. restaurants are hoping to lure consumers back to eating bluefin tuna now that stock depletion has made it a socially unacceptable choice. The path to putting bluefin back on a menu? A new product, called Kindai. This particular brand of tuna was created by a lab at a Japanese university, from hatched eggs farmed in captivity.
It almost sounds like a good idea, with wild stocks being so precariously low , until you consider the facts. Kindai tuna still has many of the disadvantages of other farmed fish. Tuna are carnivorous , they eat other smaller fish. The need for using fish in the feed for farmed tuna could contribute to depletion of various small wild food fish stocks, as it can take between 10 to 13 pounds of wild fish to produce just one pound of bluefin tuna. Though Kindai are being raised from egg to adult, rather than catching juveniles from the wild and growing them for market as has been done in the past, the scientists still must catch a few dozen wild bluefin each year to ensure the population has enough genetic variability.
The Kindai are kept in open ocean pens for growout. Problems associated with open ocean aquaculture are well known: release of waste and feces into the ocean; high incidence of diseases and parasites that can be spread to wild fish; and high potential for escaped fish to interbreed with and outcompete native fish. In addition, various chemicals that may be used to keep both fish and pens clean can cause human health and environmental concerns.
Also worth noting is that the product could undermine years of public outreach about bluefin tuna. There has been much education done, both by environmentalists and by restaurateurs who have taken bluefin off the menu, for the sake of reversing the damage to bluefin stocks and increasing awareness about the issue. Re-introducing bluefin and making it seem sustainable and socially acceptable will therefore be very confusing for consumers.
The state of bluefin tuna stocks is so serious that last week the European Parliament approved a bluefin recovery plan to lower catch levels and permit member states to suspend fishing authorizations of vessels that have exhausted their quota. Those wanting to bring bluefin tuna back to restaurant menus at this time are out of tune with real world happenings. Encouraging a continued market for these fish at this time is irresponsible.
We urge consumers to avoid Kindai and other forms of bluefin tuna for now until ecological concerns due to overfishing and farm production are resolved.
To learn more about where to look for cleaner, greener, safer seafood options, be sure to check out our Smart Seafood Guide.
- Sofía Baliño