Balfegó trials experimental bluefin tuna farm in the Cantabrian sea

    Spanish tuna company Balfegó and AZTI research centre are launching a new marine farm to fatten tuna obtained by purse seine fishing boats.

    Spanish wild bluefin tuna fishing company Balfegó has joined forces with the AZTI research centre to develop bluefin tuna aquaculture facility in submersible cages in the Cantabrian Sea.

    The tuna will be cultivated in submersible cages in waters approximately 3,688 nautical miles from the Gipuzkoan fishing town of Getaria – the first time such a technique has been used in the Basque Country region in Northern Spain.

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    The project aims to fatten tuna obtained from catches by purse seine fishing boats in the Cantabrian Sea.

    The marine farm, made up of two submersible cages 50 meters in diameter, will be installed at a depth of 100 metres. The tuna will be kept in the pens from June to October, and fed exclusively on a diet of oily fish.

    The project partners foresee an annual production of approximately 500 tons of bluefin tuna in 2025, once the facility becomes fully operational. Following harvest, the tuna will be supplied to domestic and Asian markets.

    Improved efficiency and job creation

    To supply tuna for the project, fishermen will need to adopt a different method, changing from live bait to seine gear.

    This, according to the partners, will provide “improvements in terms of eco-efficiency”, allowing “a better valuation of the fishing product”, and enabling shipowners “to catch their quotas with their boats and their crews instead of transferring quotas to other fishing gear”.

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    Tuna fishing boat using seine gear. Photo: Adobe Stock.

    The project partners envisage a range of benefits, from technical improvements mitigating the challenging weather conditions in the Cantabrian sea during the winter months, to potential job creation in fishing ports and rural coastal areas. In total, the partners expect to create 11 direct jobs.

    “In addition to the creation of employment generated by the activity, it will also contribute to improving the working conditions of the extractive fleet, so as to make this activity more attractive, allowing the establishment of jobs in the fishing ports and in less industrialized and populated areas,” the partners state.

    During the first two years of the project, the project will focus on testing and develoing the productive capacity of the installation, introducing 100 tuna during 2023, and increasing to 1,500 fish with an average weight of 100 kilos in 2024.

    About Balfegó

    Balfegó is family business, currently in its fifth generation of fishermen from L’Ametlla de Mar, a town in the northwest Mediterranean Sea with a strong fishing tradition. In the 1980s Balfegó moved into bluefin tuna husbandry. Balfegó has transformed the traditional fishing of this species to become the world’s leading company in catching, feeding, studying and marketing bluefin tuna in accordance with an innovative and sustainable business system, both socially and environmentally.

    About AZTI Research Centre

    AZTI is a scientific and technological centre that develops high-impact transformation projects with organisations aligned with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Its purpose is to drive positive change for the future of humankind, contributing to a healthy, sustainable and fair society. Specialising in the marine environment and food, it provides cutting-edge and value-added products and technologies grounded in sound science and research.

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