The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan are now reported to send the tuna industry reeling, due to infrastructure destruction and decreased Japanese demand for tuna.
Japan’s crisis came up during a hearing on tuna farming in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament today.
Bluefin tuna analyst Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi told the Committee that he had been informed that the Japanese government has ordered the suspension of bluefin tuna imports. “They are not going to spend money on luxury imports now,” he said.
An import ban has not been confirmed by the Japanese government, but Roberto Mielgo Bregazzi said that he had received such indications from several Spanish tuna ranches. “They have received phone calls from their Japanese business partners canceling pre-earthquake tuna deals,” he said.
Juan Serrano, CEO of Spanish tuna producer Grup Balfegó, wanted to downplay the decline in the Japanese market. “They called me from Japan this morning asking for more tuna. I have not noticed any changes,” he said. “It is possible that sales will go down in the areas most affected by the earthquake, but I expect sales to continue in the south of Japan.”
Japan is an important export market for the European tuna industry, as the country is estimated to consume nearly 80 percent of the world’s catches of bluefin tuna.
The destruction of Japanese ports makes it difficult to get fish in premium quality to the market, The CEO of Australia’s Southern Bluefin Tuna Association tells the ABC. Cold storage and onshore freeze installations are also affected by power shortage.
Times of Malta reports that Japanese business partners to Maltese fishing companies have cancelled business meetings in the wake of the disaster. Charles Azzopardi says to Times of Malta that he expects the price of tuna to crash, as luxury goods would be less likely to be on people’s minds in Japan.