There are approximately 50 species of tuna spread throughout the oceans of the world. Unlike most fish that consist of white meat, the tuna has meat ranging from pink to red. Important as commercial fish, the most popular species are bluefin, yellowfin, albacore and skipjack. The larger species such as bluefin tuna can adapt to cooler ocean waters by raising their core body temperature. Since the waters surrounding the United Kingdom are generally cold, bluefin tuna have migrated there and have become an important staple of the commercial fishing industry.
The regular migration of bluefin tuna into United Kingdom waters goes back to approximately 1800 when they were caught in nets off the coast of Cornwall, England. Official accounts of tuna fishing begin in 1929, when a fisherman caught two 272kg. bluefins in the waters off of Yorkshire. Since then, tuna weighing as much as 454 Kilogram have been caught in the waters near England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Many ancient and modern techniques exist in commercial tuna fishing including: the Hook and Line (for short fishing lines, reels, rods and hooks), the Hand Lines (for lines and baited hooks from boats), the Pole and Line (for throwing bait to create a feeding frenzy, then using lines and hooks), Trolling (for using lines and towed by boats), Fish Aggregating Devices (for using electronic monitoring equipment), Purse Seining (for using a large wall of netting) and Long Lines (for shorter lines carrying baited hooks attached to longer main lines).
Since tuna have become adapted to the colder waters surrounding the United Kingdom, they have been caught off the coasts of many cities. Tuna fishing areas range from the northern waters off of Scotland to the southwestern waters of Wales and Ireland. Record catches, both in weight and numbers, have occurred off of Yorkshire and Cornwall in the southern section of the English Channel.
Even though the majority of tuna for consumption is canned, they still retain a high amount of protein. Tuna is also an excellent source of potassium, niacin and vitamin B12. Long-term health benefits have included a lower risk of strokes, coronary and Alzheimer’s disease. According to Business Wire, “The scientific research over the healthy benefits of tuna has been mounting in the past years. Tuna and other seafood have helped to reduce the likelihood of heart disease and asthma, as well as helping in brain and eye development in children.”
The commercial uses of large nets have diminished the amounts of tuna in the Atlantic. In 2010, Greenpeace International added the albacore, bluefin and yellowfin tunas to its seafood red list. Some businesses have reverted back to the traditional poles and lines. According to a report in The Telegraph, “The fishing boats pull the net tighter and tighter, crowding the fish, which will fight on top of each other. Some die as they fight; the surface water turns red with blood and is full of floating body parts. It is pretty horrific when hundreds of tons are caught, and these boats are capable of doing this three or four times in a day. This method is also indiscriminate, killing more than one species.”
- International Seafood Sustainability Foundation: Status of World Tuna Fisheries
- World Sea Fishing: History of the British Tuna Fishery
- Greenpeace UK: Tinned tuna-a quick guide to fishing methods
- Business Wire: FDA Reiterates Health Benefits of Canned Tuna
- “The Telegraph”: Tuna fishing: The fairest catch