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Red tuna, the King of the Mediterranean

You will surely have heard about the red tuna, the characteristics that make it delicious and appreciated all over the world. The known fish is in great demand on the fish market and because of this has been reported among the endangered species at risk of extinction. Let’s find out together everything there is to know about red tuna!

The characteristics of red tuna

The red tuna, from the scientific name Thunnus thynnus is a fish that is at the top of the food chain, among the so-called “top predator“: it can even exceed the 3 meters of length and its weight can be greater than 400 kilos. It is a Pelagic species, also known as bluefin tuna: it is the largest of the Scombridae family, to which also mackerel and bonito belong.

Fonte: Il giornale dei marinai

The bluefin tuna owes its name to the intense color of its meat that makes this fish one of the most valuable and sought-after foods: it lives in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic up to the south of the Black Sea: the slender and aerodynamic body allows the animal to reach remarkable speeds in water, up to 70 Km/h.

As mentioned before being one of the largest predators, it eats fish, cephalopods but also sardines and anchovies and on average lives between 30 and 35 years.

How the red tuna is fished

Bluefin tuna fishing was once carried out using fixed traps and was done the so-called slaughter: to date there are different tools that use mobile traps and satellite technologies.

Depending on the purpose to be achieved, tuna fishing can be carried out in different ways:

  • With the purse seines
  • Drifting
  • Spinning
  • Jogging

In detail, in the first case the fishing takes place thanks to the boning that are triggered with the sardine, but it is an unsustainable method: frequently, in fact, other species are also caught in the hooks, including sea turtles and sharks that are thrown back into the sea dead due to their scarce or non-existent economic interest.

Fonte: Tuccoli Fishing Boats

Fortunately, satellite systems or helicopters are now frequently used to detect tuna eating, that is the situation that occurs when a herd of forage fish is attacked by many predators that become more and more aggressive and force the prey to deploy defensively, assuming the typical “ball” configuration.

Thanks to the technology, therefore, once the point where there are tuna the various boats then approach and quickly drop the nets around the fish.

Why bluefin tuna risk extinction

The bluefin tuna is the most valuable among all the species of tunnids: specifically it is very appreciated among the fishes in the Mediterranean Sea because it is rich in omega 3 and the ventresca of tuna is very sought after, or the fattest part that covers the muscle in the abdominal cavity of the animal.

Precisely because of its high commercial value that varies according to the period of the year between 15 and 40 euros per kilo and creates a profit of about 40 million per year, this species risks extinction. In fact, since 1970, due to the intensive and unregulated fishing, the bluefin tuna has been classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “threatened” and included by Greenpeace in the famous red list

As a result, it became necessary to implement legal measures to protect the species: the ICCAT (International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tuna) is an organization created to regulate fishing at different times of the year. In particular, it regulates the maximum quantities of tuna and the minimum size (30 kilos) of the specimens that can be taken by the Member States of the European Union.

In addition, everyone must follow a complex and detailed documentation to certify catches and not only fishermen but also retailers are obliged from 2016 to register on a specific online portal the quantities of bluefin tuna.

Fonte: WWF

To date, after several years of restrictions, despite illegal fishing, it seems that the general situation is improving and that there is a greater number of healthy specimens but despite this the situation remains quite critical.

Italy and the bluefin tuna fishery

Remembering that in order to catch the bluefin tuna is obligatory an authorization released from the Harbour office, there are several places in Italy where it is possible to practice the fishing of this animal. In particular it is possible to fish in the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian, Lazio, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia.

In ancient times fishing took place mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, especially in Sardinian traps, such as Portoscuso and Carloforte and in Sicily including Trapani, Capo Passero, Castellammare del Golfo, San Vito Lo Capo, Scopello, and the island of Favignana where it was practiced not only the slaughter of tuna but were also produced preserved in oil, bottarga, ventresca and other derivatives.

Bottarga di Tonno Rosso – Sito orosicilia.com
Fonte: Oro di Sicilia

The tuna fishery starts approximately around June 16 and ends on October 14 even if this window of time is variable: because of the limits imposed by law relating to the maximum amount of tuna that can be taken, fishing is often closed early.

How the red tuna is served

As mentioned above, bluefin tuna is a very valuable food that it is to be cooked with great care. First of all it is possible to serve it raw, for example, preparing carpaccio, or cooked in different ways.

In general, however, it is good to understand which part of the animal you want to cook: in fact, the fillet, the tarantello and the ventresca are distinguished.

  • Raw: it is the leanest part, with a delicate taste with which you can prepare tuna tartare or carpaccio, or the fillet in potato crust, perfect for the most delicate palates;
Fonte: 25 Fish
  • Tantarello, on the other hand, is a medium fat part with an intense flavor with which you can cook stuffed tuna, as a tagliata or a first course, for example spaghetti with tomato, olives, mint and bluefin tuna or combine it with cherry tomatoes and wild fennel;
Fonte: Melarossa
  • The ventresca or tuna belly, is the fattest part and is perfect for frying, even in sweet and sour with onion or to prepare tuna steak with pink pepper.
Fonte: Agrodolce

Now that you know all the features of bluefin tuna, plan your perfect evening and indulge yourself with recipes based on this fine food!

Finally, the ventresca or the belly of the tuna, is the fattest part and is perfect for frying, even in sweet and sour with onions or to prepare the tuna steak with pink pepper. Now that you know all the features of bluefin tuna, plan your perfect evening and indulge yourself with recipes based on this fine food!

Cover Image: Guide di Cucina

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