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Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

bluefin tuna

New Fishing Hooks Protect Bluefin Tuna

NOAA's Fisheries Service now requires commercial fishermen who fish for tuna, swordfish and other species with longlines in the Gulf of Mexico to use a new type of hook, called a weak hook, designed to reduce the incidental catch of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Read More

NOAA Scientists Study Oil Spill Impacts on Bluefin Larvae

NOAA Fisheries scientists continue to study the possible effects of last year's Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill on Atlantic bluefin tuna, a valuable fish species prized by commercial and recreational fisheries. Read More

10 Facts About Bluefin

  1. The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest of the tuna species.
  2. Maximum lengths can exceed 13 feet and weights of up to nearly 2,000 pounds have been reported in various fisheries in the western Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea.
  3. As large predators, bluefin tuna play an important role in pelagic ecosystems.
  4. Bluefin tuna are able to reach speeds in excess of 45mph in short bursts.
  5. Juveniles prey primarily on fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods, and adults feed primarily on fish such as herring, anchovy, sand lance, sardine, sprat, bluefish, and mackerel.
  6. Bluefin tuna are able to thermoregulate, which means they can keep their body temperature warmer than the surrounding water.
  7. The species is managed as two stocks, one in the eastern Atlantic/ Mediterranean Sea and the other in the western Atlantic.
  8. The western Atlantic stock of bluefin tuna, primarily fished by the United States, Canada, and Japan, is managed under a rebuilding program adopted in 1998.  It was most recently revised in 2010 with a lower total allowable catch.
  9. The U.S. fishery harvest from the western Atlantic stock is managed through NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan.
  10. Directed Atlantic bluefin tuna fisheries are prohibited in the Gulf of Mexico, and the landing of incidentally caught bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico is subject to strict target catch requirements.    

Other Facts:

Sustainability Status
Science and Management
Role in the Ecosystem

The Atlantic bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus, is regarded as one of the most prized species in the ocean. It’s also one of the biggest, reaching average lengths of 6.5 feet, and weighing about 550lbs. One fish can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Bluefin tuna are at the top of the food chain, giving them an important role in the ecosystem.

NOAA Reminder on Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Regulations

Recently, a New England groundfish vessel incidentally caught an 881-pound bluefin tuna in a trawl net. At the dock, an officer with the Massachusetts Environmental Police conducted a routine boarding of the vessel. Knowing that bluefin tuna are carefully monitored and regulated, the officer notified NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement that a bluefin tuna had been caught.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement examined whether the vessel’s permits allowed it to catch, retain or sell the fish. The vessel had an Atlantic Tunas General category permit, which allows it to catch bluefin tuna, but only by using handgear (such as rod and reel, handline, and harpoon). There is no permit that allows bluefin tuna to be caught with trawl nets, even incidentally. Therefore, the vessel could not legally retain or possess this bluefin tuna.


NOAA sets fishing quotas for bluefin tuna

2011 quotas support international recovery efforts and proactively account for unintentionally caught fish

On June 30, NOAA Fisheries announced quotas and other measures for bluefin tuna that underscore the nation's commitment to sustainable science-based management of this vital fish stock. The allocations divide the available 2011 U.S. bluefin tuna quota of 957 metric tons among commercial and recreational fishing sectors for the fishing season that began on June 1. In addition, NOAA's Fisheries announced it would begin a review of domestic bluefin tuna management to address allocation issues, discards of dead bluefin tuna and the best ways to reduce unintended catch of bluefin tuna.

June 30: Press Release

NOAA finds endangered species listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna not warranted

Agency remains concerned; will revisit decision with new science

On May 27, 2011, after an extensive scientific review, NOAA announced that Atlantic bluefin tuna currently do not warrant species protection under the Endangered Species Act.

May 27: Federal Register Notice
May 27: Status Review Report
May 27: Press Release
May 27: The 90 Day Finding
May 27: Protected Resources - Species of Concern

Life History and Habitat

Bluefin Habitat

Life history, including information on the habitat, growth, feeding, and reproduction of a species, is important because it affects how a fishery is managed. Bluefin tuna are late to mature, slow-growing, and long-lived, making them more vulnerable to fishing pressure than species that grow more rapidly such as tropical tuna species. . Read More


Tuna Landing Graph

Landings refer to the amount of catch that is brought to land.

Since a total harvest of 3,319 metric tons (mt) in 2002 (the highest since 1981), total catch in the western Atlantic declined steadily to a low of 1,638 mt in 2007 and then increased to 2,000 mt in 2008 and 1,935 mt in 2009. The decline through 2007 was primarily due to considerable reductions in catch levels for U.S. fisheries. U.S. landings for 2007, 2008, and 2009 were 758 mt, 764 mt, and 1,068 mt, respectively.