Tuna Species

Tuna is a highly migratory species that can travel through thousands of miles of ocean throughout its life and is fished in diverse regions around the globe. More than 70 countries worldwide fish tuna including major fishing nations such as the United States, Japan and Spain as well as states as diverse as Ecuador, France, Ghana, the Philippines and the smallest island nation in the world, Nauru.

Although tuna is found in all major bodies of oceanic water except the polar seas, the majority of the global tuna supply comes from the Pacific Ocean – which accounts for 2.3 million tons or about 66 percent of the total world catch. The rest of the commercial tuna sold around the world comes from the Indian Ocean (20.7 percent), the Atlantic Ocean (12.5 percent) and the Mediterranean and Black Seas (0.8 percent).

Of the many species of tuna, five are the main focus of commercial fishing.

Here is a little more information about the tuna you eat:

  • Albacore

    Albacore tuna is another type of tuna commonly found in a can or pouch. The label will clearly state albacore and is sometimes referred to as white tuna. Albacore is the only species that can be marketed as “white meat tuna” in the United States. Because of its mild flavor and white flesh (sometimes with a hint of pink), albacore is a premium variety of canned tuna. Like all other tuna species, albacore tuna is rich in many nutrients including heart-healthy omega-3 oils. Albacore is also a particularly sustainable seafood option.

    Also like other species of tuna, Albacore tuna is highly migratory and is found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. Albacore caught in the Pacific Ocean are an important source of canned tuna. Albacore tuna can range up to 4.2 feet in length and weigh up to 88 pounds. The maximum lifespan of Albacore in the Atlantic is 13 years, while it is only 9 years in the Mediterranean.

    Albacore tuna feed on smaller fish, crustaceans and squid.

    Did you know?

    A 44 pound female Albacore may produce 2 to 3 million eggs per season.

  • Bigeye

    Have you ever seen “ahi” tuna on a menu or at the fish counter in your grocery store? That’s Bigeye tuna-known in Hawaii as “ahi”. Known primarily as a sashimi fish, Bigeye are similar in appearance to Yellowfin tuna (which are also sometimes called “ahi”) and are the deepest ranging of all tuna species with a greatest concentration at 150 to 250 fathoms (900 to 1200 feet). Bigeye tuna is mild in flavor and is not a main source of canned tuna.

    Bigeye is found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, but not the Mediterranean Sea. These tuna vary in length between 1-7ft. They feed on a wide variety of fishes, cephalopods and crustaceans during the day and at night.

    Did you know?

    In the Atlantic Ocean, the record for the largest Bigeye tuna caught recreationally is a 392 pound, 6 ounce fish caught off the coast of Puerto Rico.

  • Bluefin

    Love a tender, delicate piece of tuna sushi or sashimi? You may be enjoying a piece of Bluefin tuna, which is used almost exclusively for sushi dishes. Bluefin is not used in canned tuna.

    Bluefin is the darkest and fattiest of any tuna – and also the largest of the commercially caught tuna species. Bluefin tuna can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Young Bluefins have a lighter flesh and are milder in flavor. As they grow into adulthood, their flesh turns dark red and their flavor becomes more pronounced.

    Bluefin tuna are found in oceans throughout the world and are also highly migratory, sometimes ranging over 6,000 nautical miles. They mature slowly and can live up to 30 years. Bluefin reach up to 10 feet in length and can weigh 1,200 pounds. Bluefin can swim at speeds of up to fifty miles per hour. They eat smaller fish, krill, pelagic red crab and squid.

    Because of their size, taste and their popularity in sushi and sashimi, Bluefin tuna is a fish that is in high demand and highly prized. Bluefin is a delicacy in Japan where the price of a single giant tuna can exceed $100,000 on the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

    Because it is slow to reproduce, the popular Bluefin tuna is over-fished and this has led governments and regulatory agencies worldwide to enact measures aimed at creating more responsible fishing of Bluefin to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the species.

    Did you know?

    Fishing for Bluefin dates back thousands of years to the Mediterranean, where they were trapped and roasted whole on spits.

  • Skipjack

    Skipjack tuna is one of the most commonly found species in canned and pouched tuna in the United States. Also referred to as light tuna, skipjack is full  of  important nutrients, such as a vitamins B12 and D, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and beneficial omega-3s called EPA and DHA. And skipjack is a particularly affordable and sustainable seafood option.

    Skipjack are common in tropical waters throughout the world, but like other tuna travel great distances throughout the ocean during their lives. They are found in surface waters and to depths of 850 feet during the day, but seem to stay near the surface at night. Skipjack prefer warm, well-mixed surface waters and are often found in large surface swimming schools, sometime of up to 50,000 fish, throughout the Pacific.

    These tuna feed on fish, crustaceans, cephalopods and mollusks, but are themselves an important prey species for large pelagic fishes and sharks.

    Did you know?

    In Japanese cuisine, Skipjack Tuna is known as “katsuo” and is commonly smoked and dried to make “katsuobushi”, an important ingredient in making “dashi” (fish stock).

  • Yellowfin

    Along with Bigeye, Yellowfin is also called “ahi”, but is probably better known as “light” canned or pouched tuna, named so for its pale pink flesh. Yellowfin has a flavor slightly more pronounced than Albacore.

    Yellowfin tuna are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout the world and tend to school with fishes of the same size, including other species of tuna such as Skipjack and Bigeye. As a tropical species, Yellowfin occupy the warm surface waters of all oceans. Yellowfin can grow to be up to 7 feet long and weigh up to 440 pounds and eat other fish, crustaceans and squid.

    Did you know?

    Yellowfin is also known as “ahi” tuna. “Ahi” is the Hawaiian word for “fire”, due to the smoke from their fishing ropes rubbing violently on the gunwales of the Hawaiians’ wooden canoes while pulling the fish in.