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From the high seas to your table

After being caught in the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique, tuna fish is freighted from Beira via Johannesburg around the world with Swiss WorldCargo’s efficient express services to delight your palate.

In the 1960s tuna fish was sold for pennies mainly as cat food. Nowadays, it is among the world’s most popular and commercially valuable fish and it contributes to USD 42 billion* in end value to the global economy each year. 

Several tuna species–namely skipjack, albacore, bigeye, yellowfin, Atlantic blue fin, Pacific blue fin, and southern blue fin – inhabit all of the tropical and temperate waters of the Earth’s oceans and support artisanal and industrial fishing in about 70 countries, supplying domestic and international markets.

Canned and other shelf-stable tuna products provide plentiful and inexpensive protein to markets around the world, while smaller amounts of high-quality tuna steaks and sashimi make their way to affluent markets in Asia, Europe, and North America, mainly by air cargo.

Every year, fish exporters from South Africa and Mozambique, Oman, Spain, and the Maldives entrust their tuna harvests to Swiss WorldCargo for its fast transfer times and optimum transportation conditions, including proper packing and temperature control throughout the journey and special storage at the cargo premises of the departure and transfer airports.

From the vessel to the airport

One of them is Mozambique’s largest exporter of tuna, Afritex Pescamoz. The company harvests about one million kilos of tuna per year – mainly of the yellowfin and bigeye type, which is either exported as whole fish or as value-added products. The whole fish is auctioned at high- end fish markets around the world – including Japan, USA, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Value-added tuna products include loins, steaks, tuna poke, or flavoured tuna burgers that are sold as retail commodities.

“Fish is harvested on board our own vessels by means of longline fishing and handled by our skilled crew members,” explains Gavin van der Burgh, CEO of Afritex Pescamoz. “Immediately after catch, fish is gutted, cleaned, and placed into an ice slurry to maintain the ideal cold chain temperatures. Then, it is either transferred into a fresh fish hold packed with ice or into a freezer hold.”

“Our vessels offload the fish directly into our quay side factory, where it is packed into fully insulated boxes or, in the case of value-added loins, into frozen retailready lines. The tuna is then loaded on the refrigerated trucks of our partner company Afriag and transported to the airport of Beira and further on to Johannesburg, where it is entrusted to Swiss WorldCargo and shipped to various destinations worldwide.

One of the vessels of Afritex Pescamoz during fishing operations.

Maintaining the cold chain unbroken

Due to the volatile and sensitive nature of the product, there are various challenges faced when handling or transporting fresh fish. An unbroken and consistent cold chain is crucial to uphold the quality of the fish. So, all trucks utilised  for  transportation  must  be  properly refrigerated  at  the optimal  temperature  of approximately -10°C, ensuring that packaging is not damaged during transit, handling, flight transit, or flight connections. This ensures that the core temperature of the fish arrives at destination at not more than +2.5°C.

The staff of Afritex Pescamoz at
the quai side factory packing tuna loins.

The cold chain is monitored every step of the way from landing on the boat, to packing in the factory, through the transportation to the air- port and the flight transit, until it reaches its final destination. In the entire process, the temperature rarely fluctuates by more than 1 or 2 degrees,” explains van der Burgh. “If the temperature is too low, for instance, the colour of the tuna can turn brown, rendering it unusable for high-end sashimi.”

“The multitude  of  destinations  covered  by Swiss WorldCargo is a hand in glove match for our international client base”, van der Burgh comments. “Efficient cargo handling and sensitivity towards maintaining a stringent cold chain is a major advantage to us to ensure that our fresh cargo reaches the final destination in its original premium form.

Sustainability matters!

Today, because of the high demand for tuna, many stocks are exploited to full capacity–or overfished. According to WWF, for instance, the Atlantic blue fin (which is high-grade tuna used for sushi and sashimi) is on the brink of extinction and will be wiped out in just three years.

“The Afritex group recognizes the need to protect and preserve the marine resources of our oceans in order to ensure the success of future generations by implementing sustainable fishing practices across our entire organisation,” comments van der Burgh. “The entire Afritex vessel fleet is self-owned and all crew members are recruited directly by our company, which gives the company the advantage of having full control over all aspects of the fishing process”. Afritex recently signed an agreement with Sustainable Fisheries  Partnership, a renowned non-profit organisation committed to world- wide seafood sustainability, and is a member of their international Tuna Roundtable, a tuna advisory board consisting of highly influential companies and individuals from around the world. Furthermore, the company has committed to the SFP Target 75 initiative, aiming to convert 75% of the world’s seafood to be sustainably caught or processed by the year 2020. Afritex is also Dolphin Safe certified and takes every measure to ensure that we fish in a sustainable and ethical manner.

*Source: “Netting Billions: A Global Valuation of Tuna”, Report by The Pew Charitable Trust, 2016