A local joint venture company will soon be exporting sashimi-grade fish into Japan, angling to also break into the China and European markets.

The catch? Tuna caught in zones three and four of Brunei waters.

With the launch of its US$2 million tuna processing plant and its first 18-metre fishing vessel earlier today, Yamako Pacific Sdn Bhd is projecting to reel in an annual $50 million in revenue by 2020 and creating up to 200 positions for local employment.

The company was awarded license to commence operations in March this year and specialises in processing yellow-fin and skipjack tuna at its plant in Serasa.

“I am proud to share that Yamako Pacific will practice sustainable fishing by employing the tuna pole and line fishing method… They will release smaller catch that do not meet the requirement and this will ensure that we do not deplete the tuna population in Brunei waters,” said Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong.

Minister of Primary Resources and Trade YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong at the launching ceremony of Yamako Pacific’s processing plant and fishing vessel. Photo: Ubaidillah Masli/ The Scoop

He added that this good practice coupled with the processing plant’s cutting-edge technology will be Brunei’s main competitive advantage to enter other future markets. Currently, it already employs 50 full-time workers, supported by 30 part-time staff, majority of whom are local.

Speaking to The Scoop, managing director of Yamako Pacific Alex Yeunh Oi Siong, said the pole and line fishing method is the most encouraged way of catching fish. ” Unlike net fishing, we are only targeting tuna… With our high-tech fish finder, we know even before we drop the line if there is tuna.”

Asked whether they would be able to catch enough fish to meet demand, Alex assured that the Nahkoda 1 vessel is able to be out at sea five days at a time with a catch capacity of five tonnes per trip. With tuna selling at US$4 per kilo, that would amount to a potential catch of US$20,000 each trip, he explained. It will also buy tuna from local fishermen who adhere to its high standards of fishing and storing.

“At the moment, we are just concentrating on the Japanese market since demand is strong. Our capacity will not even meet 20 per cent [of that demand],” he said. By modeling its whole plant after Japanese hygiene practices, Yamako Pacific is able to meet the stringent requirement set by Japan.

The chiller room/freezer at the Yamako Pacific facility in Muara. Photo: Ubaidillah Masli/The Scoop

Fresh off the boat, the fish will be washed and sorted in the landing area. They are then frozen whole in a -35°C  blast freezer or processed into various cuts of tuna, before being taken to a chilling room for an hour where the meat is given a chance to “relax” before they are placed into the proton freezer machine.

“We will be ordering three more fishing vessels, with plans to eventually acquire a total of 10. This will help us ramp up our export volume,” Alex said, noting that 10 per cent of its produce will be allocated for the Brunei market.

It will also be producing premium quality, high-protein processed seafood such as fishballs.

Yamako Pacific Sdn Bhd is part of a wider group of Yamako Pacific companies in the region, a Japanese-centric group with a track record of working with local industry players. The company invests in teaching local fishermen how to maximise the quality and value of the fish they catch whilst also paying them fair, international pricing.