The yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is a species of tuna found in pelagic waters of tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. The yellowfin tuna is among the larger tuna species, reaching weights of over 400 pounds (180 kg), but is significantly smaller than the Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tunas, which can reach over 1,000 pounds (450 kg), and slightly smaller than the bigeye tuna and the southern bluefin tuna.
The second dorsal fin and the anal fin, as well as the finlets between those fins and the tail, are bright yellow, giving this fish its common name. The second dorsal and anal fins can be very long in mature specimens, reaching almost as far back as the tail and giving the appearance of sickles or scimitars. The pectoral fins are also longer than the related bluefin tuna, but not as long as those of the albacore. The main body is a very dark metallic blue, changing to silver on the belly, which has about 20 vertical lines.
Yellowfin tuna is the top tropical tuna harvested by U.S. fishermen in the Atlantic. More than half of this catch comes from our longline fisheries, which operate in the northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. Longlines are often negatively portrayed for their potential to unintentionally catch sea turtles and marine mammals. However, in U.S. longline fisheries, fishermen abide by a number of measures that reduce the fisheries’ impacts on other species. These measures include mandatory use of special hooks and baits to reduce bycatch of depleted bluefin tuna, billfish, and sea turtles. When fishermen do accidentally hook a protected species, they carry gear and are trained in handling techniques to dehook species and safely return them to the water. Scientists and managers regularly monitor bycatch in these fisheries and review data for appropriate action as necessary, ensuring U.S. fishermen continue to responsibly harvest yellowfin tuna. U.S. fishermen also harvest yellowfin tuna in similarly highly regulated fisheries in the Pacific
Yellowfin tuna are found near the surface of tropical and subtropical oceans around the world. Yellowfin tuna favor water temperatures between 64 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Larval and juvenile yellowfin tuna stay in surface waters, while older yellowfin tuna are often found in deeper water. Yellowfin tuna are known to gather around drifting flotsam (natural floating debris), fish aggregating devices (FADs), anchored buoys, dolphins, and other large marine animals. Adults also gather in areas with high productivity having abundant phytoplankton and zooplankton and smaller prey.
Yellowfin tuna are highly migratory and travel long distances throughout the warm ocean. They are known to make annual trips to higher latitudes as water temperatures increase with the seasons.
Yellowfin tuna grow fast, up to 6 feet long and 400 pounds, and have a somewhat short life span of 6 to 7 years. Most yellowfin tuna are able to reproduce when they reach age 2. They spawn throughout the year in tropical waters and seasonally at higher latitudes. Their peak spawning periods are in spring and fall. Yellowfin are very productive – females can spawn almost daily and release millions of eggs each time they spawn.
Adult yellowfin tuna feed near the top of the food chain on fish, squid, and crustaceans. Fish, seabirds, porpoises, and other animals prey on larval and juvenile tuna; marine mammals, billfish, and sharks feed on adult tuna.
Yellowfin tuna has a mild, meaty flavor. It’s more flavorful than albacore, but leaner than bluefin. The meat is bright red when raw and turns brown to grayish-tan when cooked. The meat is firm and moist, with large flakes.
Yellowfin tuna can be found fresh, frozen, or canned as light-meat tuna (often blended with skipjack tuna and a bit pinker than canned albacore). Yellowfin tuna is often served raw as sashimi and in sushi.
Reported sizes in literature have ranged as high as 239 centimeters (94 in) in length and 200 kilograms (440 lb) in weight. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record for this species stands at 388 pounds (176 kg) for a fish caught in 1977 near San Benedicto Island in the Pacific waters of Mexico. In 2010 a 405 pounds (184 kg) yellowfin was caught off the tip of Mexico's Baja peninsula, 86-inches (2,200 mm) long with a girth of 61 inches (1,500 mm). The catch is still pending verification by the IGFA. In 2012 a fisherman in Baja California caught a 427 pound yellowfin. If the catch is confirmed by the IGFA, the fisherman will receive a prize of $1 million.
At CIP we love Ahi tuna! We are always trying to improve our products and the process’ and cooking of our carefully sourced goods. That said when we recently had the opportunity to “process” a beautiful 30 pound Ahi tuna.
I the past, our process was pretty traditional and strait forward. Cut and trim the fish, place the fish in a heavy sauce pan, cover the fish with seasoned oil, and very gently bring the oil and fish up to temperature, cool and package. It all worked fine, but I thought there might be a better way.
With this fish, we tried a new twist. We cut and trimmed as in the past. This time, we prepared seasoned oil, portioned the fish into our vacuum bags (one pound portions), added a couple of ounces of our seasoned oil, and sealed the bags. We that brought a large pot of water up temperature, and added the vacuum packed bags, it is important to keep the water moving as well as to monitor the temperature of the water carefully through the cooking, Just as the fish is finished, the bags were “shocked” in ice water, to stop the cooking.
The results are an improved finished product. We had much better control of the portioning, cooking and cooling, with less handling of the finished product.
So we have this wonderful tuna now available! Yup, we are offering it in our conserved tuna sandwich, in our olive oil poached ahi tuna, arugula, orange, baby artichoke, shaved fennel & asparagus salad, and it is available in 1 pound packs for you to incorporate into you favorite recipe too!
One our recipes for you to try:
Conserved Tuna Pasta
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb thinly sliced across the grain (reserve some to the fennel fronds)
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 salt packed anchovy (rinsed, and chopped)
½ Cup white raisins
1 Tbs. red chili flakes
½ C dry white wine
1 pound CIP conserved tuna
1 pound dried pasta (we like penne)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
½ Cup Fresh Toasted Bread Crumbs
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta.
Cook pasta to al dente, drain (do not rinse) reserve apx. ¼ pasta water
Heat skillet or sauté pan, add oil and bring oil to temperature (just starting to “smoke”)
Add onion, garlic, and fennel and sauté until onions are translucent (do not color or burn)
Add tomato paste and anchovy, continue to sauté until tomato paste is brick colored
Add raisins and chili flakes
Add white wine and reduce by half
Flake tuna and add to sauce
Just heat through
Toss with drained pasta
Add reserved pasta water as needed
Adjust seasonings (taste!!!!!)
Garnish with bread crumbs and fennel fronds
Not your moms tuna casserole