Torpedo-shaped fish

Little tunny grows up to 3 feet (1 m). It has a strong, muscular, torpedo-shaped body and is an excellent swimmer. It can cover large distances despite the fact that it is an intramigratory species in the Mediterranean. Migrations through the Strait of Gibraltar are typical only for the western Mediterranean population. Fishing season for little tunny is in spring and summer.


English: little tunny, black skipjack, false albacore, bonito

Italian: tonnetto, alleteratto

Croatian: luc, trup crnopjeg, voj

Slovene: luc, pegasti trupec

French: thonine, bonite, bonite queue raide, ravil, thonine commune

Spanish: atuncito, bacoreta, bacorete, bonito, cabana pintada, carachana, comevíveres

Portuguese: apluro, bonito pintado, melena, melva, merma

Greek: karvouni

German: Thonine, kleiner Thun, falscher Bonito

Little tuny is A big fish, actually

Despite the adjective in its name, little tunny is a big fish that can weigh up to 26 pounds (12 kilograms). It is identified by its striped back and black spots on its chest. The upper part of its body is bluish, which gradually changes into a silvery-white tone across its sides. As befitting a predator, its mouth is big and pointy with a series of smaller, inward-facing pointy teeth.

Mixed shoals with other blue fish

Females are sexually mature when they reach 10 to 14 inches (25 to 35 cm) in length, while males mature once a little longer, at some 16 inches (40 cm). Adult specimens form independent shoals that often join aggregations of other blue fish. 

Their predatory character grows with them

In the Mediterranean, little tunny spawns from late spring long into the summer. The males fertilise the free-floating eggs, from which the larvae hatch within a day. After only a few days, they develop little greedy teeth and their predatory character only grows as they grow.

Rare guest in the adriatic sea

Shoals of sardines and anchovies attract little tunnies to the Adriatic Sea. They regularly visit the southern part, where they used to be caught with surrounding nets by fishermen from the Dalmatian islands of Mljet, Lastovo and Vis, but they only occasionally wander into the northern part. The northern Aegean Sea, the Gulf of Iskenderun along the east coast of Turkey, the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisia and the Balearics all enjoy high densities of little tunny, and their catches here are more important than the modest catch in the Adriatic Sea.

This is also the reason the little tunny is a fairly rare guest at Croatian fish markets. In April 2015 at the Split fish market, I only noticed one little tunny specimen, which wasn’t attracting much attention, with the seller standing by the chopped up pieces visibly bored.

Careful when purchasing little tunny

Its dark red meat with its distinct flavour is not as widely appreciated as the bonito’s. Due to the meat’s higher blood content, the central part along the backbone is dark and bitter, so it is usually discarded. We should also be careful when purchasing frozen cutlets; a lot of blood indicates the fish wasn’t bled and the meat will have an unpleasant metallic taste.

Tuna recipes

Tuna spread with olive oil, lemon and chives – Albino, in the Blue book, page 90

Andalusian tuna stew – Barbate, in the Blue book, page 146

Hearty tuna stew from the Basque Country – Marmitako, in the Blue book, page 148