The Mighty, Marvelous, and ENDANGERED–> BLUEFIN TUNA

Mighty bluefin tuna on the move...

Tireless travelers–bluefin tuna on the move…

Skipjack tuna on Swell

Skipjack tuna on Swell.

Local with his big eye tuna catch.

Marquesan with his big eye tuna catch.

During my years of sea-faring, I’ve caught fish of many sorts. Catching and killing fish has helped me develop a true appreciation and respect for any creature that gives its life to nourish mine. I always take a moment to thank each fish and vow to do my best to carry its energy forward positively. I admire its form, marveling at each unique feature and speculating on how each help it succeed in its underwater life drama.

Each time I look over a tuna’s body, I’m struck dumb by their beauty and astonished by the details of their hydro-dynamically extraordinary design—the sleek torpedo shape, smooth & scale-less skin, perfectly flush eyes, a dorsal fin that actually retracts into a slit in its back! The deep purples on his back fade into silvery iridescent sides and then a pearly white belly. And synchronized oscillating ‘finlets’ protrude from the top and bottom of its rear half.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful fish for giving its life to nourish mine.

Taking a moment to thank this beautiful mahi mahi for its life.

I often catch Bigeye or Yellowfin, but in all my thousands of miles of trolling behind Swell, I’ve never caught a Bluefin tuna. That’s likely a combination of my mediocre fishing skills and their endangered species status. I did see a few of them outside of a pass in the Line Islands while freediving once…As I floated on the surface, their powerful droplet shapes coasted past with stiff pumps of their crescent-shaped tails. They carried a weighty sense of purpose, sharp and wide-eyed, as if constantly poised to react quicker then their next meal…

I later learned that Bluefin tuna are one of the few species of fish considered ‘warm-blooded’ due to the way they can increase their body temperature beyond that of the surrounding waters by transferring body heat to their muscles similar to a ‘heat exchanger’ in an engine. This evolutionary advantage gives more power and efficiency to their muscles, allowing them to swim at speeds near beyond 50mph, dive more than 3,200 feet, and swim in constant migration ranging into some of the coldest parts of the oceans! Mighty Bluefin! Flawless hunter! Tireless traveler!

A few weeks after that sighting, a Spanish tuna processing ‘mothership’ arrived with its fleet. I was welcomed aboard by the captain and witnessed the ship’s gigantic fish hold, filled with thousands upon thousands of frozen tuna corpses of all kinds. The Republic of Kiribati, poor and unaided by other nations, sadly sells off its fishing rights to foreign fleets for a fraction of the fleets’ profits.  What will the locals eat when the tuna don’t return?

Globally, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern Bluefin tuna are the most pursued and prized tuna for eating. In January of 2012, a 593-lb Bluefin sold for $736,000 to a Japanese sushi restaurant!?! Its ridiculously high value in the Japanese sashimi market motivates hi-tech, grossly specialized overfishing. Bluefin tuna populations are near extinction, but protecting this species has not received international cooperation, likely due to its market value and the complexities of regulating the catch and fishing grounds of a fish that travels to nearly all corners of the oceans.

Fish market, Japan.

Fish market, Japan.

We can support the Bluefin tuna’s right to existence by not eating this fish! The $25 billion dollar illegal fishing industry will only lose its wind when demand slackens…At sushi restaurants Bluefin is commonly called ‘Maguro’ or ‘Toro’. All over the world, our oceans are over-fished. Not only the Bluefin is at risk of extinction. If we want our grandchildren to be able to eat seafood, we need to get informed before we make our next order at the fish counter or in a restaurant. I eat mainly vegetarian now, with the occasional exception of select seafood. A great way to make sustainable seafood choices is to download the free App for smartphones called ‘Seafood Watch’ or check out their website! Awareness is our ally in the fight to save our oceans!!

Get underwater with the bluefin yourself here:

EDF safe & responsible fisheries:

Learn about the Seafood Watch App:


The Black Fish–A growing movement for the oceans — A conservation group fighting for Bluefin populations