OSAKA, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- Western Japan's Kinki University will soon open a restaurant in downtown Osaka specializing in blue-fin tuna and other types of fish that have been artificially raised from eggs at its aquaculture facilities.
The ultimate goal of this experimental restaurant is to popularize farmed seafood in stores on a scale equivalent to commonly available meats.
The restaurant, Kinki University Fisheries Restaurant, will open on April 26 in Knowledge Capital, a new commercial zone near the city's central railway station.
It is the university's new venture to commercialize the seafood products raised by a team led by Hidemi Kumai and his teams at the Kinki University Fisheries Laboratory.
The laboratory operates the university's aquaculture facilities along the Pacific Coast in the western Japanese prefectures of Wakayama and Kagoshima.
According to the university, the restaurant, with seating capacity of 100, will have a menu consisting only of farmed fish. These items will include traditional sashimiand various grilled dishes, such as "tuna cutlets," roasted tuna with garlic soy sauce, ora bowl of rice topped with fish, all served with locally grown seaweed, vegetables and fruits. A major beverage maker is a partner in the new business.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Professor Kumai, who has devoted his academic life to the field of aquaculture over the past 54 years, said that the initial success of the restaurant will contribute to improving the image and reputation of farmed fish among consumers.
He said that what they were doing is actually to address the growing concerns and worldwide criticism over the depletion of wild tuna stocks, in particular blue-fin, in ocean waters.
The Japanese are known worldwide as fish-eating people, and they prefer to eat their fish raw.
The 77-year-old professor is optimistic about the future of aquaculture in the world's food sufficiency program.
In 2002, Kumai became the first person ever to succeed in artificially breeding blue-fin tuna fry from eggs. This stands in stark contrast to the typical method around the world of directly catching wild fry off the coast, which could lead to the species' extinction.
That year, Kumai's research team was able to incubate 2 million eggs produced by six 7-year-old adult fish and 14 6-year-old fish, and succeeded in hatching all the eggs in captivity and raising the fry.
In 2006, they confirmed that 160 of the hatched fish had grown to adult size. The fish had an average length of 120 cm and weight of 70 kg. The teams ended up naming the fish the "Kinki University Tuna," which were farmed entirely by their aquaculture techniques.
Last year, they produced nearly 80,000 fry, which equate to about 15 percent of the total wild fry officially caught near the Japanese coast.
Kumai insists that the success of his team was made possible only by their continuous trial-and-error research. He noted that in addition to difficulties spawning eggs in an artificial environment, blue-fin fry are very timid and react strongly to outside elements, especially when exposed to light from the outside, such as from a passing car.
"During my experiments in the 1980s and 1990s, I had several frustrations but I have never given up my hope and passion," Kumai said.
After these difficult times, Kumai eventually confirmed in December of last year that eight of the 1,862 fish the teams had released off the coast of Wakayama two months earlier were caught in the Pacific Ocean. He now hopes the species can grow in the natural environment, although more genetic research is needed.
Local residents, meanwhile, are surprised at Kumai's background because he was born in mountainous Nagano Prefecture in central Japan. He admitted that when he was a boy, he thought that nearby Lake Suwa, located at an altitude of 759 meters and a well-known fishing spot in Japan, was a sea.
But Kumai said that his ambition was fueled by Nagano's unique environment where people traditionally ate farmed freshwater fish while dreaming of living and working near the ocean to taste real seafood.
"Although aquaculture techniques for fish such as carp and trout have been passed on over many generations -- especially in China, India and Japan -- cultivating saltwater fish has not been widespread enough for commercialization in Japan, so I saw the opportunity Kumai said.
Kumai stressed that there is also the need to change consumers' perception so that the farmed varieties of fish can be commercially promoted. He said that seafood consumers, especially the Japanese and some Europeans, tend to think that wild fish caught in the sea are much more delicious and even safer than artificially raised fish.
Kumai said, "Traditional ideas about wild fish are often scientifically inaccurate, so our teams will open our seafood restaurant to demonstrate our resolve. We will also make use of customer feedback to further our research."