Just a few weeks after Agriculture Minister Assunção Cristas sent out an appeal for more tuna farmers to set up in the Algarve, Socialist MP Miguel Freitas has added his voice to the call – saying it is vital that the Government seeks three new farming licenses “at this extraordinary moment”.
The “moment” involves the ongoing recovery of the species as other European countries are not making use of their full quota of tuna farming licenses.
Freitas hopes Portugal takes up the slack, and adds another three farms to the current Real Atunara enterprise that operates along the Algarve shores.
“As far as we can see, in the last five years neither Spain nor Italy have used all the farming licences they have rights to,” he told Sulinformação during a visit he made to the fish farm, which has enclosures off Ilha da Barreta in Faro and Praia do Barril in Tavira.
New European rules mean that licences can be given “according to needs”, not historic quotas – thus the PS intends to push parliament to negotiate a Bluefin tuna future for Portugal.
Tuna fattening farms another priority
And while the Government is at it, Freitas insists the time is right to set up tuna fattening facilites, as well.
Right now, the licenses enjoyed by Portugal do not allow for lucrative fattening – which goes ahead for example in Spain.
Real Atunara’s boss Miguel Socorro explained this means Portuguese tuna farmers cannot benefit from feeding their fish. They are bound to sell them at the weight they were when they entered off-shore tuna traps. Thus, if they spend too long in them, farmers are forced to let them go – forfeiting all the expense they have gone to in keeping them.
These outmoded rules could well be the reasons why, up until now, few tuna farmers have been wooed to set up new businesses in Portugal.
As Freitas explained, this year Real Atunara has fed its tunas around 200 tons of mackerel and herring. “Feed that won’t be reimbursed by the end gain that the company makes.”
Socorro put it more simply. In the next few weeks, 600 of the tuna in his traps will be culled for export to Japan. The deal will be worth more than €1 million – but if the fattening value could be added to the cost, profits could “rise substantially”, by as much as 50%.