International certifier Friend of the Sea has awarded Tropic Sri Lanka, one of Sri Lanka’s main tuna processors, for the company’s commitment towards conserving yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean.
Based out of Negombo, Sri Lanka, Tropic Sri Lanka recently launched “FCP@SEA” in collaboration with the Sri Lankan government and the private sector. The project aims to improve recruiting rates of yellowfin tuna with the aid of assisted reproductive technology, in effect allowing a second generation of yellowfin to return back to the ocean.
A team of experts from Tropic Sri Lanka were dispatched to viably extract eggs and sperm from commercially-caught tuna carcasses and assist in implementing fertilization at sea, as a part of the initiative. Although the project is still in its beginning phase, it could have a lasting impact on the industry, according to the company and Friend of the Sea.
“We are now in the start-up phase of the project. We are carrying out age analysis on the catch and assessing sexual maturity at associated depths, studying the adjustment of fishing gear at various depths, and training crews of nominated fishing vessels to maximize the effectiveness of harvesting viable reproductive organs of the fish caught,” Tropic Sri Lanka Chief Sustainability Officer Sashini Fernando said.
Moving forward, FCP@SEA will see larvae complete their primary maturation phase, reaching approximately two centimeters. Thereafter, the yellowfin fingerlings will be released into the ocean at pre-determined locations to target suitable habitats with consideration toward water quality parameters such as chlorophyll concentration, currents, and temperature appropriate for their maturation.
Ultimately, FCP@SEA would like to contribute to the reproduction of 20 million yellowfin tuna by 2020, according to Friend of the Sea and Tropic Sri Lanka.
The project isn’t entirely unique to the tuna realm. Back in 2007, the Japanese government started a reproduction project of Bluefin tuna to support the increasing demand for sashimi. However, whereas the Japanese government applied assisted reproductive technology to farming due to geo-morphological constraints, FCP@SEA uses the same technique out at sea, making it a pioneering endeavor, said Friend of the Sea.
“Our first contact with Tropic Sri Lanka dates back to 2010 when they first obtained Friend of the Sea certification for yellowfin, bigeye and swordfish tuna. With this award we acknowledge the great steps the company has taken in order to reach higher standards for environmental sustainability following Sri Lanka’s fish export ban to Europe in 2014,” said Paolo Bray, founder and director of Friends of the Sea. “We really hope Tropic Sri Lanka and the national government will succeed with this innovative project in order to be replicated in other parts of the world.”