P.E.I. tuna processing plant opens up new markets, bigger profits

Source: Nancy Russell · CBC News

A tuna buyer in North Lake, P.E.I., has just opened what he says is Canada's first federally-approved bluefin tuna processing facility. 

The cut house, as it's called, uses traditional Japanese knives to process the tuna.

Jason Tompkins has been in the tuna business for 18 years, the last six as a buyer in North Lake.

He said it was time to find a new way to sell tuna from Prince Edward Island.

Last year, Tompkins said, the price was around $3,500 a fish, averaging around $10 per pound.

"If you go back maybe 30 years, before tuna farming, before mass production, when you caught a tuna, it meant a new truck," Tompkins said. 

"Guys were getting anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 per fish.

"It's a big drop, from a new truck to half a used snowmobile."

New markets

Tompkins says being federally certified means his company can now sell P.E.I. tuna into new markets. 

"We can send them to China, Korea, the Middle East, Europe, previous to this we were only able to sell them to Canada, the United States and Japan," Tompkins said.

"Bluefin is a luxury item so we're seeing the explosion of sushi restaurants everywhere."

Tompkins is also hoping to market bluefin tuna from P.E.I. in a different way.

"There's demand for this wild, rod and reel caught, artisanal bluefin," Tompkins said.

"To be able to bring the story of P.E.I., no nets, no bycatch, to some new markets, we're hoping for great things."

The company will be spreading the word by including a customized information sheet with each shipment of P.E.I. bluefin tuna.

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