Wildlife Fact Sheets

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Thunnus thynnus

  • Life Span
    15 years
  • Habitat
    Coastal and pelagic zones in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters at depths up to 1,000 meters
  • Range
    The Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, from Canada to Brazil
  • Preferred Food
    Small fish, crustaceans, squid and eels

About

Built like a torpedo, Atlantic bluefin tuna race through the water at speeds up to 43 miles per hour. Their pectoral (side) fins can retract, and their eyes are flush with their bodies, meaning they are extremely streamlined. This helps increase Atlantic bluefin tunas speed and endurance by decreasing drag in the water. Their shiny metallic coloring, blue on top and white on bottom, is great camouflage and helps them hide from onlookers above and below. Atlantic bluefin tuna are big, however, which makes them hard to miss! Their average size is six and a half feet long and average weight is 550 pounds.

Unlike most fish, Atlantic bluefin tuna are endothermic, or warm-blooded. This means they can generate body heat by swimming and keep their body temperatures higher than the surrounding water. This special trait, known as thermoregulation, allows them to live in a wide variety of climates and helps them on long ocean journeys.

Atlantic bluefin tuna are schooling fish and like to stick together based on size. They use their speed to hunt darting, schooling fish, and swim slowly with open mouths to catch small, slow-moving prey. These fish prefer to stay at depths where they can see sunlight. They also don’t stay in one place for too long—instead, they migrate long distances and have even been tracked traveling from the Bahamas to Norway!

Did You Know?

The word “tuna” originates from the Greek word that means “to rush.” That’s fitting given their speed!

Status and Conservation

After decades of overfishing throughout the Atlantic—including illegal fishing—managers are working to help rebuild Atlantic bluefin tuna populations back to healthy levels. The United States works with other countries to set limits on how many can be caught throughout the Atlantic, but these have to be followed by everyone in order to be effective! The Gulf of Mexico has an important role to play in our recovery because it is the only known spawning area for the western Atlantic part of their population.

Although Atlantic bluefin tuna used to be listed as Endangered by the IUCN, they are now considered a species of least concern—indicating that conservation measures are helping their population numbers.

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