The export revenue of tuna, one of the leading export items in aquaculture, reached $40 million in the first half of the year, with an increase of 43% compared to the same period of the previous year, as a result of the increase in Turkiye’s fishing quota.
Turkish fishermen, who sail to the Mediterranean at the end of May every year, catch tuna as much as the country quota determined by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT).
The fish are brought to farms in the Aegean Sea to be raised. Bringing tuna to farms as well as hunting is possible with a difficult journey.
Tuna is fed organic feeds such as sardines, snails and mackerel. Fish weighing 250-600 kilograms are processed in “factory ships” that come to the Aegean Sea from Japan in December and go on an export journey.
Japan is the biggest tuna market in Turkiye. The tuna, which is in high demand from Japan, is used in making sushi and sashimi, the traditional dishes of this country.
Difficult journey from Malta to Karaburun
Emre Ulucan, who works as an engineer at the tuna farm located off the coast of Karaburun district of Izmir, told the AA correspondent about the difficult tuna fishing process.
Expressing that they had a fruitful hunting period within the scope of legal quotas, between 26 May and 30 June in Malta, which they determined as pasture this year, Ulucan said that 7 thousand tuna weighing 565 tons were caught and brought to the farm off Karaburun.
Ulucan pointed out that the one-month transplant is a difficult and risky operation.
Stating that the nets with the fishes are 25 meters deep, and the sea depth has decreased to 15 meters in places off the coast of Karaburun, Ulucan stated that while passing through these regions, the divers collect the cages upwards under the water.
Stating that even the smallest tear in the cages will cause all the effort to go to waste in this process, Ulucan said that the transported tuna are transferred to the cages in the farm, and the feeding process of approximately 1500 tuna in each cage is started.
Explaining that a total of 7 thousand tuna are fed with an average of 70 tons of bait fish such as sardines, snails and mackerel per day, Ulucan said, “Although tuna looks majestic, they are actually delicate creatures. Any tear or pothole in the nets can lead to the death of these creatures due to friction. That’s why we take precautions. Our divers regularly check the cage system and make the necessary repairs.”
Strict control of hunting quotas
Stating that the tuna fishing quotas determined by ICCAT are strictly controlled, Ulucan said, “Thanks to the good monitoring of international fishing quotas, the tuna stock in nature has increased in recent years. As a result of this increase, Turkiye’s tuna quota has been increased by 12%, along with other countries.”
$150 million revenue target
Turkiye Fisheries and Animal Products Exporters’ Associations Sector Board Chairman Sinan Kiziltan also stated that Turkiye is one of the top 5 producers of tuna in the world.
Stating that exports increased by 43% from $28 million to $40 million in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period of the previous year, Kiziltan said that sales to Japan, the largest market, increased by 61%, and that they also grew in the markets of South Korea, the USA and Italy.
Kiziltan stated that the tuna entered the kitchens after a difficult hunting and breeding process and said:
“The imports of tuna, shrimp, salmon/trout, cod, and crab in Japan’s seafood imports account for about one third of the total. In the production of sushi and sashimi, traditional dishes of Far Eastern cuisine, tuna grown in Turkiye are used. Our fish get full marks from Japanese masters. The weight of tuna grown on farms can reach up to 600 kilograms. That’s why we call tuna the bovine of the sea. We predict that our tuna exports will reach $150 million by the end of 2023.”
Source: AA / Prepared by Irem Yildiz