Pacific Tuna


Author: Deb Doan, Program Manager

Coming from humble beginnings, the fish formerly known as neko-matagi, or ‘fish that even a cat would disdain’ has gained much popularity over the years. One of the world’s most popular seafoods, tuna is one of the fastest and strongest predators in the open ocean – hence the nickname ‘Ferraris of the sea’. Tuna is also one of the greatest shared natural resources of the Pacific Islands region, providing jobs, government revenue and contributing towards meeting the nutritional needs of the Pacific Islands community. Yet on average, 66% of tuna landings come from the Pacific and only 30% of value is retained, with limited in-region processing. In addition, some of the Pacific’s key challenges – population growth, climate change and overfishing – will place increasing pressure on the sustainability of tuna resources.

Business for Development has been engaged by ACIAR (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research) and FFA (Pacific
Islands Forum Fisheries Agency) to research opportunities for increasing the value retained by the Pacific region from their tuna resources. Research will include a broad scan and feasibility assessment of the various end uses of tuna, ranging from food products, food additives that provide health benefits, animal feed and industrial uses, coupled with developing an understanding of the systemic barriers that may be hindering the successful commercialisation of opportunities – for example, access to finance.

There has been extensive research conducted to date on the Pacific tuna sector, but this has typically focused on the regulatory environment
or specific topics such as climate change. The primary objective of this project is to focus resources on the most promising opportunities,
and therefore commercial feasibility is a top priority to maximise the probability of shortlisted opportunities progressing towards commercialisation. A multi-disciplinary team has been assembled to ensure different angles are explored – covering seafood science, commercialisation and innovation, sociocultural, regulatory, technology, consumer insights and deep industry knowledge.

The project is still in its early days but tuna’s versatility and high nutritional content means that the possibilities are endless, with the
potential to improve employment opportunities, food and nutritional security, and inclusivity while also reducing waste and improving
the sustainability of tuna stocks. Who knows? Perhaps in a few years’ time you’ll see tuna leather, bottled tuna or micro-canned tuna produced by a small-scale Pacific business on a shelf near you.

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