Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to Break a Market Corner: Breeding Breakthrough Helps Sushi Baron Create Sustainable Tuna

As a follow-up to "Mitsubishi Tries a Corner in World's Bluefin Tuna Market" comes news that may bring sorrow and sadness to Mitsubishi.
(and is reminiscent of a scene from January 1980*).
From the Bloomberg:
Hagen Stehr was at home in Adelaide, Australia, on March 12 when his company’s chief scientist called with news that their bet of about $48 million on the breeding of southern bluefin tuna in captivity -- a feat never accomplished before -- might finally pay off.

“Big fella, you better come back,” scientist Morten Deichmann said to the 6-foot-1-inch Stehr.

Stehr, chairman of Port Lincoln, Australia-based Clean Seas Tuna Ltd., rushed more than 500 kilometers (311 miles) to his company’s fish hatchery outside Arno Bay in southern Australia. With tears in his eyes, he pushed his Toyota Land Cruiser to its top speed of 180 kilometers an hour as he raced to see the fertilized eggs for himself. As the owner of a fishing fleet during the past four decades, Stehr had helped empty the seas of the bluefin tuna used in sushi restaurants from New York to Tokyo. Now, at age 67, he believed he was on the verge of saving the tuna -- and the industry that made him rich -- from the threat of extinction.

“Everyone thought I was a bloody lunatic,” says the suntanned Stehr, in jeans and a checked shirt from the iconic line of boots and outdoor clothing named for R.M. Williams, an Australian bushman. “Nobody in the world had ever done this. We’ve created a sustainable fishing industry for years ahead.”

The majestic bluefin, a metallic-blue-and-silver fish, is prized by sushi lovers in Japan, the U.S. and Europe for the rich taste and creamy texture of its meat. In their zeal to feed those palates, fishermen have almost wiped out the two species of bluefin -- northern and southern -- while also threatening the yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

Nothing Left to Fish

The eastern Atlantic bluefin, a northern variety found in the Mediterranean Sea, will probably vanish within 10 years, says a study by marine scientist Brian MacKenzie at the National Institute of Aquatic Resources in Charlottenlund, Denmark.

“In a few years, there’ll be nothing left for us to fish,” says Atsushi Sasaki, a Japanese fisherman who’s caught bluefin for 20 years. “The collapse of bluefin is just around the corner.”>>>MORE

*In January 1980, as the Hunt Brothers were gunning the price of silver toward it's historic high, the CEO of one of the world's largest trading firms said "Those boys don't know what deep pockets are", rather an amazing statement when talking about billionaires.

Within 48 hours both U.S. silver futures exchanges had gone "Liquidation only", the corner was broken and the Hunt's had lost their fortunes.

I'll leave it to you to guess the CEO.