Clean Seas Tuna has issued dispute notices to its feed suppliers over the loss of kingfish worth millions of dollars. Photo: Nick Moir
IT WAS the feed all along, it seems. Pioneering aquaculture company Clean Seas Tuna has sought compensation worth tens of millions of dollars from two suppliers for the loss of kingfish devastated by the deficiency of an amino acid, taurine, in their feed.
Chief executive Craig Foster said Clean Seas had issued formal dispute notices to its two major feed suppliers after getting independent legal advice and assessment of kingfish feed protocols in Japan.
''The board has determined to invoke formal dispute resolution procedures with both feed suppliers to attempt to find a commercial compromise of the claims the company considers it has against both suppliers,'' Mr Foster said.
Clean Seas would not identify those companies it had notified, but industry sources said listed Ridley Corporation and Tasmania's Skretting were the two major feed suppliers in Australia. Neither Ridley nor Skretting returned calls yesterday.
Mr Foster said it had taken months to determine the cause of the kingfish deaths that struck Clean Seas this year, after two years of poor performance. By adding taurine to the feed, he said, ''simply, empirically, we can see we've reversed the whole health problem''.
Clean Seas shares have been in a prolonged slump and have fallen from a high of 8.3¢ in February to 2.4¢ at Wednesday's close.
Mr Foster said the dead fish stock was worth only a few million dollars but there was also lost productivity from the fish that did not go on to grow.
He would not quantify the total damages claim but said it was ''tens of millions of dollars''. He said further independent testing would be needed. At this stage blaming the feed deficiency was ''only our opinion''.
Clean Seas also said it had achieved early spawning of its southern bluefin tuna brood stock and was confident of achieving viable fingerlings for the transfer to sea cages in December.
BBY analyst Dennis Hulme welcomed as ''very positive'' both announcements, on the feed deficiency and tuna propagation. Clean Seas could now ''get back to being a money-making business … [and] potentially a takeover target,'' he said.