While global seafood consumption is reaching record levels, many countries are also concerned with the survival of certain species and have been considering limits on fishing bluefin tuna and other species to protect marine resources.
In December, Marubeni Corp spent USD 47 million to buy a US marine product factory in Alaska that procures and processes wild salmon and other fish. As a result, Marubeni can now supply 57,000 tonnes a year of marine products--mainly Alaskan salmon--to Japan, Europe and other markets.
Before that, in November, Mitsubishi Corp purchased a Chilean salmon farming company for USD 125 million. The company owns facilities with a production capacity of about 20,000 tonnes of salmon a year.
Both companies boast terrific business results and will become key fish suppliers to Japan, Yomiuri Shimbun reports.
"Owning companies like this is just as valuable to us as owning promising mines or oil fields," a Marubeni official said.
The big trading firms Sojitz Corp and Toyota Tsusho Corp farm bluefin tuna in NagasakiPrefecture.
Toyota Tsusho, which raises bluefin tuna from a juvenile stage, shipped about 13,500 of them to firms in Nagasaki and Kagoshima prefectures in 2011. It uses farming sites with Japan's advanced fish farming technology where sea waters are calm.
Even so, aquaculture has its limits: suitable areas are not boundless and the prices of fishmeal fed to the farmed fish have been following an upward trend.
Meanwhile, fish consumption has been rising worldwide and especially in emerging countries like China, having boomed about 50 per cent from 1990 to about 109 million tonnes in 2007.
China accounts for more than 30 per cent of the world's consumption of marine products and has been gradually upping its coastal fishing since the late 1990s.
Whether the Japanese trading companies succeed or fail to secure enough supplies of fish may be the deciding factor as to whether the country’s consumers will be able to eat reasonably priced fish in the future, observers said.
The earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s eastern seaboard last year is another reason why securing sufficient amounts of fish has become paramount.
In the UratoIslands of MiyagiPrefecture, only one oyster processing factory is still functioning and two-thirds of fishers have left, CNN reports.
At the same time, the tsunami has improved the bay's oyster beds and made for a good 2012 season, as the violent waves brought in nutrients from the deep ocean. Forecasts are for oyster and seaweed production to return to pre-tsunami levels by 2014.