SEVERAL factors have led to a decline in tuna consumption in Japan, the main market for Port Lincoln's southern bluefin tuna exports.
Keynote speakers at the Seafood Directions conference held in Port Lincoln last week noted the decline in Japanese consumption of tuna.
Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association chief executive officer Brian Jeffriess said the decline in global tuna catches and the increase of other products such as salmon had contributed to the drop in consumption.
"The weakness in the Japanese economy and Yen have diverted tuna supplies to other growing markets such as Europe, Korea and North America," he said.
"The growth in sashimi and sushi consumption outside Japan has been dramatic.
"The problem for us in the growth of these other markets has been the high tariffs in Europe and Korea against Australian southern bluefin tuna, and that the growth in Europe and North America has been largely lower grade tunas such as yellowfin and albacore.
"The (Japanese) Yen has been so weak in 2013 that many supplying countries have significantly reduced supplies to Japan, and concentrated on their own domestic markets."
Mr Jeffriess said the weakness of Japan's economy and the Japanese Yen had caused the drop in competitiveness, and the drop of tuna being consumed as sashimi had nearly halved since 2002.
"The official data shows the supply of non-canning tunas for sashimi peaked in 2002 at 609,000 tonnes and has fallen to average 383,000 tonnes in the last five years," he said.
"Of the current 383,000 tonnes supplied to Japan, the premium market, including Australian southern bluefin tuna, is only 40,000 to 45,000 tonnes; that premium market is dominated by pacific bluefin from Japan and Mexico.
"Australian southern bluefin tuna has a major opportunity to grow its market share, but this depends on maintaining the high quality produced in 2013."
Mr Jeffriess said there was a lack of understanding around "non-essential rules" in the industry, which compromised quality and forced global production outside the country.
"However, there appears to be a new awareness in governments that Australia will only be part of the Asian dining boom if we look at regulations more widely than just wanting to be a regulator," he said.
"Again, the long delays in finalising free trade agreements has been federal governments failing to look at the bigger picture, and thinking the rest of the world will stand still waiting for Australia to catch up.
"The trading world just does not work like that, especially in the Asian century."