Giant Bluefin Tuna

posted: 05/15/12
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Giant Bluefin Tuna
Credit: ISSEI KATO/Reuters/Corbis |

Tuna is a very popular food fish, and as a result, many species are targeted by the commercial fishing industry. From ahi (yellowfin) to albacore, tuna has been consumed by humans since ancient Greece. The giant bluefin, also known as an Atlantic or northern bluefin, is the king of this very large and tenacious species, and is highly sought after by sport and commercial fishermen all over the world.

The 1,000-pound Giant Bluefin

One thing's for sure: If you were a giant bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), you'd weigh at least 300 pounds. That's what gets a tuna into the "giant" weight class. But many giant bluefin don't just stop there. They can reach more than 1,000 pounds. The world record holder weighed a robust 1,496 pounds. Northern bluefin can be found all over the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea, and are closely related to the Pacific bluefin. They're blue and gray with yellow finlets, a large mouth and short pectoral fins, compared to their tuna cousins. If a giant bluefin can manage to avoid the net, it can live as long as 30 years and grow to lengths of 10 plus feet with an average weight of 770 pounds. As is the way of the ocean, the giant bluefin eats other fish that are smaller than it is -- typically mackerel, squid, herring and sardines.

One Pricey Catch

Because of its size and never-say-die personality, the giant bluefin is one of the most highly prized game fish in the ocean. In fact, they rival even the infamous marlin in game fishing lore and notoriety. Catching a giant bluefin can bring in a pretty penny as well, with one record sale in early 2010 fetching $177,000 for a single 513-pound bluefin. It's sold at a premium because it's such a difficult fish to catch and because its tender meat is typically one of the highest priced sashimi items on a sushi menu. Total, the commercial giant bluefin industry tops $7 million each year. Commercial fisheries use large nets called seines, and long line-fishing techniques. This is when an extended fishing line with dozens of baited hooks is dragged behind the boat. Sport fishermen use heavy tackle rod and reel gear, live bait and artificial lures.

Why You Should Throw It Back

Because of its status in the dining world, commercial fisheries have put a strain on the species. Some reports have numbers declining between 70 and 80 percent from recent years and as much as 90 percent overall since the 1970s. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) claims that a mere 7,500 tons per year is a sustainable quota. What do commercial fisheries actually bring in each year? 60,000 tons. This means that unless greater effort is made, the giant bluefin tuna could be on the endangered species list.

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