Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Facts ~ Atlantic Bluefin Tuna FAQ & Pictures

by Bob

in Bluefin Tuna

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a torpedo shaped, large apex predator fish that can reach 1,500 pounds with a max speed up to 43 mph. They are practically extinct due to overfishing and of the 3 bluefin species, they are the most endangered.

An Atlantic bluefin tuna strikes. Credit: ©Gilbert Van Ryckevorsel/TAG A Giant

An Atlantic bluefin tuna strikes. Credit: ©Gilbert Van Ryckevorsel/TAG A Giant

Here are some neat facts & FAQ on the Atlantic bluefin tuna:

What other names do the Atlantic bluefin tuna go by?
Bluefin tuna, tunny fish, horse mackere, northern bluefin tuna, giant bluefin tuna.

How many different species of tuna are there?
61 are “tuna and tuna-like”. 14 are true “tuna”. 1

How many species of bluefin tuna are there?
There are 3:

Are the Atlantic bluefin tuna divided into separate stocks?
Yes. They are both Atlantic bluefin tuna but they are divided into 2 stocks based on geography:

  • Eastern stock – Off the coast of North America. Harvested by the U.S., Canada and Japan
  • Western stock – Off the coast of Europe and Africa

What is the population of the Atlantic bluefin tuna?
2015 estimates:

  • Eastern stock – 200,000 tons of spawning stock
  • Western stock – 15,000 tons of spawning stock

Do these 2 stocks stay separated?
No, they feed together at times off the east coast of North America and in the central Atlantic.

Where is the Atlantic bluefin tuna found?
The entire Atlantic Ocean.

Do Atlantic bluefin tuna migrate?
Yes. They have one of the longest migrations of any fish on earth – A 10,000 mile circular route as shown below:

Atlantic bluefin tuna migration route

Atlantic bluefin tuna migration route

Were the Atlantic bluefin tuna ever in the Black Sea?
Yes, but they were overfished to extinction in the 1980s. 2

Are the Atlantic bluefin tuna the largest of all the tuna species?

How big do Atlantic bluefin tuna get?
They average 500 pounds, but can reach ~1,500 pounds.

How long are Atlantic bluefin tuna?
They average 6-10 feet but can reach 13 feet.

What is the largest Atlantic bluefin tuna ever caught?
A 1,496 pound world record bluefin was caught off Nova Scotia in 1979.

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna- biggest ever caught

The all-tackle world record Atlantic bluefin tuna. It weighed 1,496 lbs. and was caught off Nova Scotia in 1979.

Is the Atlantic bluefin tuna warm blooded?
All bluefins are lukewarm blooded as explained here.

Do bluefins have a third eye?
Yes. A parietal eye is a small transluscent patch of skin located on top of the heads of many animals including certain fish like bluefins, lizards, frogs and birds. It’s light sensitive and thought to help bluefins steer “by the sun” during their long migratory treks.

Does an Atlantic bluefin tuna have to keep moving at all times?
Yes. Like some sharks, they must always be on the move to keep water flowing over their gills to maintain adequate oxygen supply.

How fast do Atlantic bluefin tuna swim?
43 mph. Making it #5 on the fastest fish list. Read more about the fastest ocean animals.

What do Atlantic bluefin tuna eat?
Mackerel, sardines, squid. Really, anything that swims and sometimes, even kelp. They can somewhat filter-feed plankton.

How do Atlantic bluefin tuna catch their prey?
They use their speed to catch anything that moves and filter-feed as well.

Do they have any predators?
From birth to adolescence, they are vulnerable to sharks, other tuna, killer whales and anything that can catch them. Once they reach adulthood, they have no predators.

A nice video on the Atlantic bluefin tuna:

How deep can Atlantic bluefin tuna dive?
4,000 feet in their quest for food.

How long do Atlantic bluefin tuna live for?
Up to 50 years.

Where do Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn?
They spawn once per year when they reach 8-12 years of age.

Are Atlantic bluefin tuna slow-growing?
Yes. It takes them 8-12 years just to reach spawning age which makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing compared to faster growing species.

What is the primary market for the Atlantic bluefin tuna?
The sashimi and sushi markets of Japan.

Why is the Atlantic bluefin tuna mainly used for sushi?
It’s a fatty, bloody fish that has a fishy taste and odor when cooked. However, eaten raw, it is considered a delicacy.

What is the bluefin toro?
It is the fatty belly of the tuna that is the most prized part of the fish.

Bluefin toro- belly cut

Bluefin toro- belly cut. Photo by kawanet/Flickr CC

When did the demand for bluefins escalate?
Bluefin wasn’t always a popular fish. In fact if you read this article in The Atlantic, it seems the whole bluefin sushi craze has been a manufactured craze as bluefin tuna was considered an “inferior” fish as recently as the 1960s.

How are Atlantic bluefin tuna commercially caught?
Rod and reel, harpoon, handline and purse seines.

Atlantic bluefin tuna UK 1933

Atlantic bluefin tuna being caught by nets. Scarborough, UK 1933 credit:

How much Atlantic bluefin tuna is caught every year?
About 18,000 tons per year.

  • Eastern stock – 16,000 tons
  • Western stock – 2,000 tons

Are Atlantic bluefin tuna farmed?
Yes. Bluefin tuna farming is a recent occurrence. Juveniles are caught and fattened up on large fish ranches before sale.

Can farming Atlantic bluefin tuna actually save them?
Removing young bluefins before they’ve had a chance to spawn is not considered a viable alternative to save the species. Raising them from eggs has worked for Pacific bluefins but has not been successfully undertaken for the Atlantic or Southern bluefins.

When are most Atlantic bluefin tuna commercially caught?

Is it ever sold as canned tuna?
No. Canned tuna is either albacore (white meat) or a mixture of mostly skipjack and some yellowfin tuna (light tuna). All bluefin tunas are mainly caught for the sashimi and sushi market.

Is the Atlantic bluefin tuna endangered?
Yes. They are considered endangered with only the critically endangered status left before extinction. IUCN Status

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna UK-worlds biggest bluefin tuna-atlantic bluefin tuna facts-

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