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Technology

Holy mackerel! Innovative tech could mean tuna for all

TOKYO -- The 2030s could find the world in the midst of a deepening food and energy problem due to an exploding population. But while most statistics paint a bleak picture of the future, there exists hope in the form of talented people and the innovative technology they are developing.

     One such person is Goro Yoshizaki, a professor at the Graduate School of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. Alarmed by the possibility that the bluefin tuna will become extinct, he has kicked off a project to develop a technology that enables the fish to be spawned via mackerel. His aim is to establish a way to increase tuna production without harming the ecosystem. One reason he chose mackerel for the project is that it grows quickly and does not cost much to raise.

     The two fish have very different body sizes, but both belong to the mackerel family, making them "relatives." Yoshizaki has so far succeeded in developing a method to produce rainbow trout using "masu" salmon, both of which belong to the salmon family, and to yield expensive tiger puffer via the grass puffer.

     To produce tuna using mackerel, reproductive cells are removed from tuna and transplanted into mackerel. Male mackerel possessing tuna sperm then fertilize tuna eggs held by female mackerel. Yoshizaki's study is now at the stage where he has selected the type of mackerel suitable for producing tuna. He said he aims to finish developing the technology in five years and commercialize it in 10 years.

     In farming tuna, young fish caught in the open sea are raised in a special facility. Because so many of the fish are captured before spawning, an increase in farming activity pushes down the number of tuna in the wild.

     Currently, Japan accounts for 80% of global tuna demand. But with Japanese cuisine growing more popular around the world, consumption of the fish is on the rise in such places as China, the U.S. and Europe.

     The global population is expected to exceed 9 billion in 20-30 years. Instead of fighting for a shrinking pool of natural resources, we should, like professor Yoshizaki, focus on finding ways to ensure a necessary supply for all.

(Nikkei)

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