Yellowfin Tuna

posted: 05/15/12
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Yellowfin Tuna
Credit: Courtesy of Matt Watson |

The yellowfin tuna, which sushi lovers may know better as "ahi," is on the larger side of the tuna family tree. It can weigh as much as 300-plus pounds. Tuna are a large species, though, so 300 pounds is only about a third as large as the yellowfin's monster cousin, the bluefin. This shallow swimming, schooling fish is pretty friendly as well, regularly hanging out with other species of fish, dolphins and whales. Partially because of the sushi industry, yellowfin is a heavily fished species by recreational anglers and commercial fisheries alike.

Surface Swimmers

The yellowfin's scientific name is Thunnus albacores, but don't let that confuse you with albacore tuna. It likes to stick pretty close to surface, from about 330 feet and up, despite the fact that it can dive to great depths. Although they prefer the surface of the water for hanging out and socializing, they generally stay away where the water is deep, away from the shoreline. But they will venture closer to land from time to time to the delight of weekend fishermen all over the Caribbean, Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. They're shiny and dark blue, with a silver belly, and if you're wondering about the name, it's because of the yellow dorsal, anal fins and finlets that run down the back to the tail. While they're susceptible to becoming a meal for a killer whale or shark, the commercial fishing industry is what really puts a dent in the yellowfin population.

Competing with Commercial Fisheries

The yellowfin is a popular game fish because of its speed and strength, something anglers look for when seeking a tough catch and good fight. The bulk of yellowfin tuna are nabbed as part of the commercial fishing industry. In the old days, commercial fishermen angling for yellowfin did so by using poles and fishing lines. These days, nets and commercial long lines are the preferred method. Seine nets are set around large schools of tuna, found by eye and with the help of modern electronics. Considering that a single set can yield hundreds of tons yellowfin, it has become the predominant method for commercial fisheries. For a while, seine fisheries were under the gun because of the large amount of dolphin by-catch that occurred. Now, fisheries attempt to avoid mixed schools so they can package "dolphin safe" tuna for the conscientious consumer. Or you can always look for "pole caught" yellowfin at discriminating seafood retailers.

Why You Should Throw It Back

Despite the vast amount of fishing for yellowfin, the big guy has persevered and is currently at 96 percent of the level needed to support maximum sustainable yield. This means that the yellowfin is not classified as overfished and you can enjoy it guilt-free next time you sit down at the sushi bar. If you are a sport fisherman, just abide by the local catch limits to fish responsibly.

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