Tomoki Mishina is changing the world, one beautiful fish at a time

Published 23 September 2019
Tomoki Mishina

One of Tomoki Mishina’s big life dreams is to create a world in which tuna live in home aquariums. Actually, that’s sort of a joke as, Tomoki (Tom) says, “a tuna is huge; who would have that in their room?” His ambition is, however to “make something that’s impossible, possible.”

The 26-year-old student of the Bachelor of Marine Science and Management is from the small rural city of Ota in the prefecture of Gunam, Japan. He is now in his second year at the National Marine Science centre at Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour campus and is excelling on many levels. He has recently been awarded an SCU International Scholarship and, after spending his summer months working alongside Professor Symon Dworjanyn on a research project into sustainable practices to grow aquarium fish, has been included as a co-author on his first scientific paper that is currently in review.

“For a first-year student to be on a scientific paper is incredible,” says Professor Dworjanyn. Tom was asked to research the best foods to feed the bright Blue Tang fish – otherwise known as Dory to lovers of Pixar movies – as part of a Mars Corporation-sponsored project that will help islanders in Indonesia create sustainable businesses growing and selling the beloved ornamental fish.

“When I was applying for university, thinking about my life, I thought I could be a fish farmer. But then I could not have impact, so research is a path to having an impact,” says Tom. “The marine existence is already on the verge of collapse so we need to take care.”  

“Tomoki is delightful, so dedicated and hardworking,” says Professor Dworjanyn. “And he is someone who is going to make things happen. He will change the world.”

In the classic rite of passage, Tom first came to Australia in 2016 as a backpacker, working for a pearl farm in the Kimberley as a deck hand where he found his love for working on the ocean. “That was the beginning, I realised that working with the marine environment is what I wanted to do.”

Tomoki returned to Japan where he travelled to coastal areas speaking with fisherman as a way of learning about aquaculture in Japan and then working in fisheries as he applied for university in Australia. As a student on both the Lismore and Coffs Harbour campuses, he spends his weekdays studying and striking up conversations with strangers for two purposes: to improve his English and make friends.

“I make myself go and talk to everyone,” says Tom. “I am very happy.” Tom is also throwing himself into another Australian tradition – surfing. He started with a Southern Cross surf camp where he first rode a board, standing up. “I just want to spend my time on the water, though of course just as I have learned that I love the ocean, I’m also learning about the sharks.” When Tom isn’t quite feeling like a dare devil, he snorkels with friends instead.

Media contact: Media