The fish of superlatives

Bluefin tuna can grow up to 13 feet (4 m), but will typically measure 7 feet (2 m). It lives in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The bluefin tuna fishing season is in May and June.


English: bluefin tuna

Italian: tonno rosso

Croatian: tunj, tuna, tun

Slovene: modroplavuti tun

French: thon rouge

Spanish: atun rojo, aleta, azur

Portuguese: atum rabilho

German: roter Thun, grosser Thun

an excellent work of engineering

The bluefin tuna is a warm-blooded animal whose remarkable blood circulatory system, acting as a heat exchanger, maintains a constant body temperature of 86°F (30°C ). In a single day it is able to swim 620 miles (1,000 km) , and during key hunting moments it can accelerate up to a speed of  44 mph(70 km/h).

From Mediterranean to Atlantic and back

The bluefin tuna differs from its relatives in that it migrates from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and vice versa. In the spring, it is lured through the Strait of Gibraltar by the higher temperatures of the Mediterranean Sea, and then in late summer schools of tuna return to their hunting grounds in the Atlantic.

Fishing with traps

Fishermen have long been familiar with the migration routes of the bluefin tuna and over the centuries they developed a fishing technique with traps, aimed at migratory schools using a complex system of gillnets. In the last decade, these traps have only been set up in ten areas in four countries – in Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan waters, and off the western coast of Sicily..

EU recognises this trap system as the most sustainable way of fishing bluefin tuna: only mature specimens are caught, there is almost no bycatch, and the fish are caught alive and unharmed.

In danger of becoming extinct

Sadly, the population of the North Atlantic bluefin tuna has been decimated by centuries of overfishing. As it is in danger of becoming extinct, it is recognised as an endangered species. Since 2006, there have been heavy restrictions in place on tuna fishing in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and luckily the last few years have been showing the first signs of recovery.


Andalusian tuna stew Barbate in the Blue book, page 146