The Atlantic bluefin tuna is one of the world’s largest, quickest, and most beautifully colored fish. Thunnus thynnus is the scientific name for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Their sleek, torpedo-shaped bodies are designed for speed and endurance. Their coloration—metallic blue on top and shimmering silver-white on the bottom—aids in their concealment from above and below. Because of their ravenous hunger and varied diet, their average size is 6.5 feet long and 550 pounds, while much larger individuals are not uncommon. Unfortunately for the species, bluefin meat is also considered exceedingly delectable, particularly among sashimi eaters, and overfishing has decreased their populations to critically low levels throughout their habitat.

Despite the fact that Atlantic bluefin is widely spread and move thousands of kilometers, there are only two documented spawning locations: the Gulf of Mexico in the western Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea in the east. Although various ecological and environmentally friendly variables probably influence both the location and productivity of bluefin spawning in these two locations, little is known about why bluefin spawn where they do.

Spawning occurs in the Gulf of Mexico between mid-April and mid-June, when females, which reach maturity around the age of eight, lay roughly 30 million eggs apiece. The northern Gulf of Mexico has the largest number of bluefin larvae, which is the key predictor of spawning, with lower larval populations along the Texas coast and in the Florida Straits.

From June to August, the eastern Atlantic sees only spawning in the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, with the largest larval concentrations in southern Italy. Although some fishery scientists assume that eastern Atlantic bluefin achieve sexual maturity several years before western Atlantic bluefin, this theory has been challenged.

Smaller fish such as mackerel, herring, whiting, flying fishes, and mullet, as well as squid, eels, and crabs, are eaten by Atlantic bluefin tuna.

They are sought by sport fishermen for their fight and speed, shooting through the water at high to 43 miles per hour with their muscular, crescent-shaped tails. To reduce drag, they can retract their dorsal and pectoral fins into slots. Some scientists believe the “finlets” on their tails may even help to lessen water turbulence.

Bluefin tuna grow to huge proportions by feeding nearly continually on smaller fish, crabs, squid, and eels. They also filter-feed on zooplankton and other tiny creatures and have been spotted consuming kelp. The largest tuna ever caught was a 1,496-pound Atlantic bluefin captured off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Humans have been eating bluefin tuna for generations. However, in the 1970s, demand and prices for enormous bluefins skyrocketed around the world, particularly in Japan, and commercial fishing companies devised new methods to locate and catch these sleek giants. As a result, bluefin stocks, particularly large, breeding-age fish, have collapsed, and international conservation efforts have resulted in commercial take restrictions. Nonetheless, at least one organization claims that illicit fishing in Europe has driven Atlantic bluefin populations to extinction. Because of this, they are overfished in many locations. There are about 5-10 million bluefin tunas remaining on the planet.

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