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Bluefin Tuna: Everything You Need to Know

school of bluefin tuna

The Bluefin is the largest type of tuna in the world. These behemoth fish usually get up to 6.5 feet in length, but they can grow as long as 10 feet! They also have a long lifespan averaging 15 years, but they can live up to 40 years. 

 

Bluefin tuna not only happen to be one of the largest fish in the world, but they’re also one of the most valuable fish. In fact, one single Bluefin was purchased at an auction for nearly $2 million by a restaurant back in 2013. Sadly, this high demand is also destroying their populations. 

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Identifying the Bluefin Tuna

Bluefins are known for their beautiful coloring of metallic blue on top and shimmery silvery-white on the bottom. Their colors help them blend into the water below and above them, which helps when it comes time to hunt.

 

These fish can swim up to an incredible 43 miles per hour, and they also possess the ability to retract their pectoral and dorsal fins, which scientists believe is meant to reduce drag. On top of that, Bluefins have tiny “finlets” on their tails meant to reduce water turbulence. 

 

bluefin tuna

 

History

Bluefin tuna have been highly regarded throughout history. For decades, they’ve been one of the most beloved fish by sport fishers because of their agility and speed. It’s quite a challenge reeling how quickly they swim and their ability to weave throughout the water. 

 

At this time, though, they weren’t regarded as food. Most fishers would put the dead fish back in the ocean, take it to a landfill, or sell the meat to pet food companies to be added as ingredients. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that things started to change.

 

World Record

Their enormous size makes them the ultimate prize to catch, as well. The largest one ever caught was found in Nova Scotia in 1979. The massive Bluefin weighed a whopping 1,496 pounds! For these reasons, fishing for Bluefin tuna continued to rise in popularity throughout the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Bluefin Life Cycle 

These tuna are warm-blooded, which is somewhat of a rarity when it comes to fish. The Bluefin life cycle begins in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. Each year, the adult fish living in the Atlantic make their way to these areas to spawn.

 

The area they migrate to depends on where they live. The western Bluefins go to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern fish travel to the Mediterranean sea. Bluefin tuna migrations start in April and last through July.

 

Once the eggs hatch, the small Bluefin have to make the long journey back to their homes. After the young fish reach the age of 4 to 5, they will be mature enough to migrate. 

 

Habitat

Unlike other types of tuna, Bluefins are generally found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Their warm-bloodedness makes it easy for them to live in these cold waters. Still, they can live in all ocean waters, which is why Bluefin populations exist all over the world. 

 

In fact, there are two distinct stocks of Bluefin tuna in the world. The primary, and more well-known one in the Atlantic, and a second one that lives in the Pacific Ocean. Each of these groups migrates to different areas for spawning and food. 

school of bluefin tuna feeding

 

Diet

Bluefin tuna have an insatiable appetite, which their enormous size can be attributed to. These fish are carnivorous and spend most of their time feeding on smaller fish, eels, squid, and crustaceans. The juvenile Bluefish are the ones that typically eat things like crustaceans, but the adult fish mainly eat smaller fish like herring.

 

This type of tuna filter-feeds off of even smaller organisms like zooplankton and has even eaten kelp. Although Bluefins are carnivores, they’re more opportunistic predators. This means they go after whatever is nearby and easier to get versus aggressive hunting. 

 

Threats

Unfortunately, the population of these amazing fish is dwindling due to their demand for food and overfishing. Bluefins are highly regarded as one of the most delicious fish globally, especially in Japan, where it is used in sushi and sashimi. 

 

Commercial fishing of Bluefin has increased every year, driving the price up. It’s also increased the use of pirate fishing because the industry lacks regulations and enforcement. This has caused a significant decrease in Bluefin tuna.

 

How to Catch

best tuna lure to catch bluefin

 

Bluefin tuna is one of the most exciting fish to go after. You can use bait and lures, but that’s just the basics. Here are some tips to help you catch one.

 

  • Go in the summer, when they’re closer to the water’s surface.
  • Use a single-strand wire to avoid getting spotted by their excellent eyesight.
  • Only use fresh bait when fishing for Bluefins.
  • Make sure you have a permit first.

 

Where to Catch

There are places all around the world to enjoy fishing for Bluefin tuna, but it’s recommended to stay offshore. As long as you stick to that technique, you’ll be able to catch them off of the U.S. Atlantic coast, Australia, and the Canadian Maritimes of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

 

How to Eat

After you’ve caught one, you’ll be ready to start preparing your Bluefin tuna for a delicious meal. These fish are best raw, seared, or medium-rare with a little pink in the middle. It’s also popular to braise them since they are quite fatty and doing so will create a robust flavor.

 

bluefin sashimi toro

 

Here are some other cooking options for Bluefin tuna:

Confit

This is the technique of preserving meat in its own fat, so this would be similar to the canned product. 

Oil Poach

Cook a fillet of Bluefin in a layer of oil on each side for 4 minutes until the temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Sous Vide

This technique involves soaking the fish in a dry brine for 30 minutes before cooking.

 

Final Thoughts

Bluefins are magnificent fish that are powerful and fast. Their large size makes them voracious eaters, but their size and diet allow them their speed and agility. 

 

To keep learning about this fascinating species of fish, read more of our blog posts!

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