- The Atlantic bluefin tuna can grow as heavy as a cow in its 35-50 year lifespan; the Pacific bluefin tuna can reach 900 pounds and live for about 15 to 26 years.
- The world-record tuna, at 1496 lbs., was caught off the coast of Nova Scotia, the location of many of the largest tuna ever caught.
- The bluefin tuna is threatened by overfishing; some species are endangered, although the Atlantic population is still listed as least concern.
According to the National Fisheries Institute, 88% of American households have dined on canned tuna fish. For an animal that ends up on dinner plates quite so often, it is surprising to discover that tuna can grow to massive sizes. But it’s true. Tuna fish can grow very large — even as heavy as a cow. People have caught some very large tuna fish over the years. Have you ever wondered how big the largest tuna ever caught is? Read on to find out.
What is the Largest Tuna Ever Caught?
After 43 years, the Atlantic bluefin tuna remains the largest tuna ever caught. Ken Fraser caught this world-record tuna off the coast of Nova Scotia. Not only is the bluefin tuna caught by Ken Fraser the largest tuna that has ever been documented by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), but it is also one of the most famous records in the history of fishing.
On October 26, 1979, while fishing with Captain Eric Samson aboard the Lady and Misty out of Port Hood, Nova Scotia, Fraser reeled in the bluefin tuna that would later become a world record catch. Interestingly, it took him only 45 minutes to bring the largest tuna near enough to gaff it after it had consumed a baited mackerel. Even after being in the boat for nearly 10 hours, the bluefin tuna weighed an amazing 1,496 pounds. This record for the largest tuna ever caught has stood for almost 43 years and may never be surpassed.
Other Record Tuna Discoveries
There are other amazing discoveries of massive tuna fish caught by other individuals. Of course, none of them was big enough to surpass Ken Fraser’s catch which still holds the record for the largest tuna ever caught. Many of the largest bluefin tuna ever found were caught near Nova Scotia.
About a year before Fraser’s catch in 1979, a large Atlantic bluefin tuna had been caught somewhere off the shore of Prince Edward Island, which is close to Nova Scotia. The bluefin weighed an incredible 1,178 pounds (about 300 lbs less than the record holder). Also, in 1985, another fisherman caught a bluefin tuna that weighed about 1,116 pounds while fishing off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
In 2012, an American reality TV program about tuna fishing started airing. The show follows a group of tuna fishermen on their fishing trips across Massachusetts and has recorded some pretty massive finds. In the 11 seasons of the show so far, the largest tuna caught by anyone was a 1,250-pound bluefin tuna off the coast of Cape Cod. TJ Ott caught the nearly 11-foot monster fish. While impressive, it is still no match for the one caught more than four decades ago.
The Pacific bluefin tuna is another tuna species that tend to grow big. They can reach a maximum size of about 900 pounds and live for about 15 to 26 years. However, not all species of tuna grow this big. The smallest species in the tuna family is the blackfin tuna, and they only grow to a maximum length of about three feet and weigh roughly 45 pounds. Blackfin tuna are commonly used as bait for catching larger tuna varieties. People also make sushi with this fish or even eat it raw.
Facts About the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
The Atlantic bluefin tuna has a life expectancy of up to 35 to 50 years, which means that even the largest fish has plenty of time to continue growing. Bluefin tunas can reach such gigantic sizes because they fill themselves up virtually nonstop. Their prey includes other fish, crabs, squid, and eels. They also consume zooplankton and other microorganisms through a process called filter feeding. Scientists have also reported instances of tuna fishing on kelp.
Bluefin tuna are notoriously fierce predators that sit at the top of the food chain in their local habitat. They travel throughout all of the oceans and have the ability to dive deeper than 3,000 feet. The Atlantic bluefin tuna can swim really fast. Their eyes are flushed with the rest of their body, and they may retract their fins. This streamlined build makes it easy to go after prey quickly and take them down.
Atlantic bluefin tuna has high muscular strength, which is transmitted effectively to its caudal fins, which feature a pair of tendons that help the fish to propel itself. In contrast to the other fish, the body of this species remains rigid while the tail moves rapidly back and forth, which results in a more efficient swimming motion.
Largest Tuna Ever Caught — Threats
The most significant threat to Atlantic bluefin is the insatiable demand for fish around the world. The practice of overfishing persists despite efforts to curtail it and conserve the fish population.
Bluefin aquaculture, which emerged due to dwindling wild supplies, has yet to achieve a sustainable production level. Therefore, wild commercial fishing for the species continues to thrive.
Currently, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is classified as a species of least concern which means it still has a healthy population. However, other varieties of fish, such as the Pacific bluefin tuna and the bigeye tuna, are classified as near-threatened and vulnerable, respectively. The Southern bluefin tuna is an endangered species in dire need of conservation.
During the spawning season of Atlantic bluefin tuna in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released up to 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of New Mexico. That’s more than five percent of the tuna’s range in the United States. In the case of the bluefin tuna, the leak happened during the most crucial phase of the species’ life cycle, when eggs were just developing into larvae.
It is difficult to determine the short and long-term effects of this catastrophic event on the Atlantic bluefin tuna population and that of other pelagic species in this area. However, anthropogenic occurrences like this put pressure on the population of marine species and may contribute to their extinction.
The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest species of tuna and one of the largest fish species worldwide. The fish is considered one of the true kings of the marine ecosystem, with record catches that have measured over 10 feet and several pounds in weight. While a record discovery like Ken Fraser’s 1979 catch is unlikely, there are undoubtedly many more massive monsters like this swimming in the different oceans of the world. Only time will tell how long this world-record tuna catch will continue to stand.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © bekirevren/Shutterstock.com
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