So it has been a while since I got really “salty” with one of the Fishy Facts blogs. In fact, I haven’t focused on a saltwater fish species since April! Shame, shame, shame. But I am looking to correct that this month, with a look at what may be the most well known and most consumed saltwater fish out there: the tuna! So sit back, take a Dramamine pill if necessary and we’re full steam ahead into the world of this amazing fish!
Tuna are a saltwater fish that are well known for their fast-speeds and delicious taste. There are several species of tuna including: Albacore, Blackfin, Bigeye, Longtail, Yellowfin and Bluefin (which has three different species – Atlantic, Pacific and Southern). There are other species of tuna, but the ones listed are the most common.
Most tuna are shaped the same, streamlined and sleek for impressive speeds and two closely spaced dorsal fins on their backs. They mostly vary physically by size and coloring. For example the bullet and frigate tuna average a little over a foot in length, whereas the Atlantic Bluefin tuna averages over six feet! There is a correlation between the larger the fish the longer they are known to live for, but unfortunately there is a similar trend of the larger the fish the more endangered it is. These fish also live in massive schools which can breathtaking to see in action.
For centuries, tuna have been a prized fish for consumption and catching. Their immense strength and impressive speeds make them an awesome sport fish. I had the chance to do an overnight tuna trip out of California many moons ago and my forearms have not burned as much as when catching some yellowfin. (And that includes comparing to reeling in a 175lb Mako shark on a fly rod.) Commercially, tuna are one of the heaviest fished stocks out there. Due to the increase of human consumption we are depleting these animals quickly.
Over the years, there have been several developments put into place to hopefully help tuna populations. There are size and amount limitations on these fish in certain areas. And fishermen have learned what kind of tuna repopulate quicker. For instance, the skipjack can bounce back much faster than harvesting Bluefin tuna. Some people are also trying to farm raise these fish from eggs, much like any other fish-farming process.
When sport fishing became so well documented and publicized, by the likes of Zane Grey and Ernest Hemmingway, there was almost an “arms” race to catch the biggest fish. Fishermen sought out the largest fish and went through grueling fights to land them. Some battles take over an hour’s time. The largest Atlantic Bluefin tuna caught in 1976 and weighed 1496 pounds. But these kinds of catches will probably never happen again as these giant fish probably no longer exist.
Whether a fisherman or not, we must all do our part to help protect tuna populations and their environment. Figure out what you can do on a local level to help impact the global scene. A very interesting read on this subject is a book called Tuna: A Love Story. It can be very scientific at times, so it might be a hard read but it is well worth it.
So here is to you, the might torpedo-like tuna! May you continue to swim in our oceans and be a staple on our dinner plates! Until next time!
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