Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: What are the Differences?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: March 23, 2023
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Tuna may be the king of all the world’s edible fish. Whether it’s from a can or elegantly draped over nigiri, many people have experience with tuna and its culinary uses. Still, these amazing fish are a lot more than their uses in food. Today, we are going to be looking at two of the most famous species of tuna, the bluefin and the yellowfin. Although they go by different names, both of these tuna species are popular around the world. Let’s discover the differences between Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna!

Comparing a Bluefin and a Yellowfin Tuna

Bluefin tuna are larger, have a smaller distribution, and are more endangered than yellowfin tuna.
SizeUp to 1,500 lbsUp to 450 lbs
AppearanceDark blue tails, no clear stripe, smaller pectoral fin.Yellow tails, yellow lateral line, yellow dorsal and anal fins.
DistributionAtlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean SeaTropical and subtropical oceans worldwide
Culinary price pointHighly sought and valued. Upwards of $200 per pound.$8-$15 per pound.
Conservation statusEndangered.Near Threatened.
Recognized speciesAtlantic, Pacific, SouthernSingle species, Thunnus alalunga

The 6 main Differences between a Bluefin and a Yellowfin Tuna

The main differences between bluefin and yellowfin tuna are that bluefin is significantly larger, fetch a higher price, and have a smaller global distribution than yellowfin.

Both bluefin and yellowfin tuna are top predators in the world’s oceans, but there are some definitive differences between them. Worldwide, there are three recognized species of bluefin, and only one recognized species of yellowfin. All three bluefin species are highly prized as sport and culinary fish, but the yellowfin is also seeing an increase in both markets as well. These large, powerful fish are easily identifiable and are clear apex predators in any habitat they frequent.

Many fish species are at risk of extinction due to severe overfishing, but tuna populations are at an elevated risk. Bluefin is especially at risk due to its low supply and high demand, although this reduction in supply has also affected the yellowfin. Currently, fishing practices regarding tuna are not sustainable in either the bluefin or yellowfin, but the bluefin is the closest to danger.

These fish are quite similar, but there are some things that separate them as a species. Let’s learn a bit more about both of these fish.

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Size

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna

Bluefin tuna can weigh significantly larger than yellowfin tuna.

©Al McGlashan/

Although both tuna are quite large, the bluefin takes the lead when it comes to size. The Atlantic bluefin is the largest of all tuna species. This massive fish has been recorded at 1,500 pounds, rivaling the largest bony fish in the ocean. The only competitors in their class are black and blue marlin and swordfish.

Yellowfin tuna are also large fish, just not as large as the Atlantic bluefin. On average, yellowfin tuna doesn’t weigh more than 450 lbs. They are the third smallest group of tuna, behind the bluefin and bigeye tuna.

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Appearance

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin tuna have bright yellow markings and an elongated pectoral fin.

©Al McGlashan/

Bluefins get their name from their distinctly dark blue color, which is visible on their tail and around their dorsal. Additionally, bluefins don’t have a definitive lateral stripe as yellowfins do, although their fins do occasionally have tinges of yellow. Looking at the pectoral fin, the bluefin is shorter than the yellowfin.

Yellowfins get their name from their bright yellow coloring, which can be seen on their fins, tails, and distinct lateral stripe that goes from head to tail. Additionally, yellowfins have long pectoral fins, especially when compared to bluefins.

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Distribution

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna

The three bluefin tuna species can be found all over the world.


The bluefin tuna has three native ranges that it inhabits that can be broken down according to the species. The Atlantic bluefin can be found in the Atlantic and Mediterranian seas. The Pacific bluefin can be found in the northern Pacific Ocean but is believed to migrate to the south during the year. The southern bluefin can be found across the southern hemisphere of all the world’s waters between the lines 30°S and 50°S.

The yellowfin tuna is more widespread than any single bluefin species. They are in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, including island regions like the Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean.

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Culinary price point

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna

Bluefin tuna is among the most expensive fish in the world.

©funny face/

The bluefin tuna may be the most sought-after commercial fish in the world. It is an extremely expensive fish, with the current record being a 600-lbs bluefin selling for $3 million at a Japanese auction. Japan is the primary consumer and most notably uses it in sashimi. Currently, Atlantic bluefin goes for upwards of $200 per pound.

Yellowfin tuna are also used for culinary purposes, although they aren’t as rare or large as bluefin. As a result, they are less expensive. Yellowfin is used for sushi, sashimi, and even steaks. Hawaiian culture refers to these fish as “ahi,” a name that many may be familiar with. Most commercial settings have yellowfin at $8-$15 per pound.

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Conservation status

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna

The yellowfin tuna should be fished following sustainable fishing practices.

©Al McGlashan/

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) lists the bluefin as Endangered. While the data may be contested in some countries as misleading or convoluted, what is certain is that humans aren’t practicing ethical or sustainable fishing, especially when it comes to bluefin. The southern bluefin tuna is the most at risk of all the bluefin tuna.

Yellowfin are more numerous and not as high of a concern right now. Still, the WWF lists yellowfin as near threatened. These fish are coming under further stress as they are an alternative to bluefin and a higher quality option than many other species that are usually canned (albacore and skipjack).

Bluefin vs Yellowfin Tuna: Recognized species

Bluefin tuna species:

  • Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)
  • Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis)
  • Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)

Yellowfin tuna species:

  • Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)
    • Also referred to as ahi

The photo featured at the top of this post is © jurgal photographer/

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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