Blue Water Hunting and Freediving - Digital Version 1 - Page 141

Bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna , distributed worldwide , are one of the largest gamefish available to the bluewater hunter . In the Atlantic , they reach weights of 1,700 pounds ( 770 kilograms ), while the largest Pacific bluefin , netted in 1989 , weighed 1,008 pounds ( 457 kilograms ). My world record of 398 pounds ( 180.7 kilograms ), stood for 15 years . In 1997 , Paulo Gaspar ’ s 655-pound ( 297-kilogram ) Atlantic bluefin eclipsed my record . With improved resource management , there will be larger fish taken by spearfishers .
An international tuna commission , the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna , attempts to regulate Atlantic bluefin stocks . Because of their great value ( my fish , freshly caught , if jetted to Japan , would have been worth $ 725,000 ) and rapidly decreasing stocks , there is always a lively dispute between scientists and fishermen . The scientists , intent on management , caution us against overfishing . Fishermen , intent on feeding their families , insist that things have never been better . The fact is that overfishing by purse seiners in the 1960s severely jeopardized future populations of bluefin tuna by wiping out complete year-classes of these fish .
The situation is even worse in the Pacific , where no functioning plan is in place . In the fall of 1989 , night squid netters directed by spotter planes observing mysterious phosphorescent contrails on the surface ( giant bluefin tuna disturbing the plankton ) started a California
Terry Maas with his 398-pound bluefin tuna . Photo by Howard Benedict bluefin bonanza yielding many fish weighing 600 to 800 pounds . Several netters became millionaires in the space of three months while their deckhands , sharing in the catch , bought new cars .
It is disheartening to think that this marvelous and mysterious migration of huge breeding tuna , perhaps repeated over millennia , was decimated in the span of a few months by man using his highly sophisticated methods . Because of their timidness and great speed , bluefin stocks are at little risk with bluewater hunters who , to date , have taken less than several hundred worldwide .
Atlantic bluefin are found off the eastern United States , Canada and the west coast of Europe . Northern Pacific bluefin traverse the ocean from North America to Japan . The Atlantic and North Pacific bluefin are considered to be subspecies of the same species . Southern bluefin , considered a separate species , roam the South Atlantic , the South Pacific and Indian Oceans .
Prolific breeders , capable of producing 10 million eggs per year , they have been known to reach 30 years of age — my 398-pound bluefin was scientifically calculated to be 11 years old . In the Atlantic , bluefin tuna cannot breed until they are at least six years old ( about 100 to 120 pounds ). They are not effective breeders until they weigh over 500 pounds , typically at age 15 to 16 .
Traveling up to 150 miles per day , these fish regularly make the trip from warm Caribbean waters northward to the cold waters off Nova Scotia and , in some cases , even cross the Atlantic