In January of 2013, at an auction in Tokyo, a sushi-restaurant owner paid one-and-three-quarter million dollars for a Pacific bluefin tuna. Not a boatload of them, mind you, but a single fish.
The high price was mainly a publicity stunt. Yet even an average bluefin typically sells for tens of thousands of dollars. That makes it one of the most expensive fish on the planet. And that’s making it increasingly endangered.
There are three species of bluefin, found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Southern oceans. The Atlantic variety is the biggest, typically growing to six or seven feet long and more than 500 pounds.
The bluefin is one of the fastest of all fish, topping out at more than 40 miles per hour. It achieves that speed because it has a streamlined body and it can fold its fins down to reduce drag. When it swims, it moves only its tail, which requires less energy than flexing the entire body. And it has large gills that extract a lot of oxygen from the water.
The bluefin is warm-blooded, so it can dive into the cold ocean depths in search of prey. And it’ll eat just about anything that swims, especially fish and squid.
Because of bluefin’s popularity in Japan, fishing fleets pursue them relentlessly. That’s caused major drops in all the bluefin populations. Some new restrictions enacted a few years ago may be helping them rebound, although that’s not certain. What is certain is that as long as there’s demand, people will be trying to catch the speedy bluefin tuna.