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Bluefin Tuna

I am trying to figure out if I have ever eaten this. I know it's endangered, but beyond that I have no idea how widely it's distributed (in N. America but I'm also interested to hear about other parts of the world - Europe, Japan etc.). Who still serves this? For example, in Montreal, is it possible to get it? If a restaurant doesn't mention that they *don't* use it I suppose assuming they *do* is faulty simply because isn't it wildly expensive?

Sorry for the convoluted questions, I'd love to know where the line is between this being politically incorrect to eat and it being a premium item. Where does this line appear for the regular sushi eater? Has farming allowed the prices to come down in any way, and if not, is that a realistic prospect? Is is possible to purchase this item from a fishmonger in North America? What about where it's fished? Would it be possible to get it in Nova Scotia right off the boat or do they ship it all to Japan? I am not looking to purchase, just extremely curious.

I found this on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mediterranean-B... but havent found any other online sources. $51 for a small can of fish. !!!

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  1. I know I have eaten bluefin tuna at at least two restaurants in Pittsburgh. It was identified on the menu specifically as bluefin tuna, and, in both instances, the provenance of the fish was identified with specificity, although I cannot remember where it came from. As these are both respected restaurants in the area, I have little doubt as to the veracity of their claim. I've had it both as sushi (as nigiri and in a roll) as well as seared. I remember the taste being more juicy and succulent than yellowfin, although I still prefer ahi to either.

    I do not remember the price being exorbitant at either establishment and am sure other items were pricier.

    I do not know about the conservation status of the fish, and such concerns do not cross my mind; I feel no guilt for eating these items. If it is on the menu then I assume it is cool to eat; if it's tasty, I'll order it again.

    I'm almost certain I've seen it on the menu at other restaurants in this country and others and have probably ordered elsewhere, even if I don't remember doing so. For me, at least, it was not so good that I would specifically seek it out, but it was good enough that I would not hesitate to order it if the preparation intrigues me or I am sharing with others that have an affinity for it.

    1. Here's some information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who produces a very respected guide to seafood sustainability for consumers. Its available online, and here is their information for Bluefin Tuna:

      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org//c...

      As you can see, its listed as a fish consumers should avoid, as it is being overfished.

      I think it is appalling that anyone would simply shrug their shoulders and say, "not my problem" in regard to the status of any seafood.

      1 Reply
      1. re: carolinadawg

        My question(s) are more about general availability of this priduct, I know it is technically listed as endangered. Thanks for link, tho. :)

      2. Wow, this could be quite a topic. There are many disparate views on how endangered the Bluefin Tuna fishery is. Actually, many, many different fisheries under a myriad of state, federal and even international treaty rules. There is widespread animosity about who gets to catch how many and of what size in every fishery.
        That being said, it is my highly biased opinion that the best management and best long term regulation of bluefin, especially giant bluefin tuna, is along our coast from New Jersey through Maine. The population seems to be stable and fish must be above a certain size (around 62 inches) to be kept. There are strict quotas on total catch. There is still a lot complaining about recreational vs, commercial catch and what can be sold.
        All that being said, prime large giant bluefin tuna, say above 400 pounds, is almost all shipped to Japan. They sell for high enough prices in Japan to make it worth shipping them by air within 24 hours of the fish being brought to dock.
        Current prices fluctuate quite a bit, but $8-10 dollars a pound is typical. Four and five years ago,
        Boston prices hit the $20 a pound range.
        The majority of so called "sushi grade" tuna sold here is not wild blue fin, and is from fish that are typically 40 - 80 pound yellowfin, or sometimes farm raised (fattened) blue fin.

        2 Replies
        1. re: justicenow

          $8-$10/lb. is a lot less than I had assumed. Am I right to say 'bluefin'? I dont mean all tuna species, I specifcially mean the rare, highly prized variety. What happens to the smaller ones caught off the N American east coast? Domestic market? Fishmongers? Restaurants?

          1. re: montrealeater

            Small bluefin can not be kept in New England waters.

            $8-10 a pound is what the boat is paid, at the dock, after the fish is inspected and had fat content tested. That can be a lot of money for a fish that go well over 1000 pounds.

            In Japan, a very large bluefin set a new record sale price of $736,000 this year. It was inflated by a restaurant chain owner who wanted to make a statement.

        2. I apologize if you already knew this, but the price of some is on account of the species/area, and the cut. The can you linked to is both rare, and belly meat - a more expensive piece.

          There are a few types of bluefin, and some are experimenting with a "sustainable" farm raised product, but most of what you get in restaurants is likely the over-fished variety. Ethics are your call :)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rodzilla

            I saw footage of one of these farms on one of A Bourdain's shows. They ate some just-caught on the boat and he was raaaving. However, they were unwilling to share their tuna-farming secrets.

          2. I've eaten Bluefin many, Many, MANY times long before it hit the endangered-species list.

            All I can say is - why all the hoopla?? Good friggin grief. "Extremely curious"? Grow up. Trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be thanks to the media. Sigh.

            I find your concentration on this one fish disturbing, which unfortunately is one reason why it's now endangered.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Bacardi1

              I know this is an endangered fish and I've seen the prices it can sell for in Japanese fish markets, I am curious about how it tastes, why it is so prized, and how widely available it is. I'm pretty sure I'm in a place where questions about food and food related issues are OK. Please to relax, anger bear.

              1. re: montrealeater

                Okay - relaxed.

                Have you eaten Bluefin before? Do you enjoy sushi/sashimi? I have, & frankly I don't find the flavor equal to destroying the fish in its environment.

                Trust me. Visit a local high-end Japanese/sushi place & enjoy the tuna sushi or sashimi that they offer. If it's fresh, it will be equally as wonderful as any supposed "bluefin" you'll be offered at other spots.

                1. re: Bacardi1

                  One of my questions is whether or not I've eaten it. I have never knowingly (i.e. seen it specifically called 'Bluefin tuna' on a menu) ordered it and I was wondering if it's something that they don't label (because it's endangered) for customers or if the premium idea outweighs that and they would always label it as what it is. I doubt I've eaten it. I LOVE sushi and sashimi and have had some at fairly high end places in Vancouver but never Tokyo or NYC, nothing way, way up there. One of my reasons for asking is I love tuna sushi (the red kind they label as maguro) and am just curious about whether or not bluefin tastes much better than that or if it is more a factor of it being a)rare and b)highly prized in certain places.

                  1. re: montrealeater

                    Everything is subjective, but to put it simply, yes, Bluefin tuna is better. And it's deservingly more highly regarded. The taste and amount of the fat and the marbling make it appealing. The red flesh is also less metallic (can't think of a better descriptive word) and meatier, with less sinew than other species such as Big Eye, Yellow Fin, and Albacore. It's actually not even close. Even simple Bluefin tuna steaks are better.

                    In North America, I think restaurants will make a point to emphasize that they are serving Bluefin because it is a delicacy. It's still a premium product and although in danger, not illegal to serve. In Japan, it's always identified as Bluefin. It's the Kobe beef of the sea.

                    From a bio-diversity standpoint, it would be tragic if the species were to be eradicated. It would be a shame from a culinary standpoint too. It's definitely one of nature's great delicacies.......Also, just FYI, the word "maguro" is the generic term for tuna- irrespective of the different species.

                    1. re: Silverjay

                      A thoughtful and balanced reply. We'll see which way the feather falls for the bluefin on the world's menus.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        The metallic taste would be attributed to the iron in the blood. I understand that Japanese fishermen who catch bluefin do bleed the tuna to drain out the blood before it goes into deep freeze. Fishermen in Taiwan who catch bluefin migrating off the coast of Japan and past the southwestern tip of Taiwan (Pintung county), have some tendency to not bleed the tuna out, thus having a more bitter (bloody) like taste....whether this is intentional or not has not been discussed much.

                        Bluefin in Japan is handled very carefully and very knowledgeable sushi chefs go through even more steps to properly age the bluefin under controlled conditions to draw out its flavor (just like dry aged beef but different), and those really serious use old school refrigeration methods, like sandwiching the blocks/cuts between giant blocks of ice.

                        They say the best bluefin in Japan comes from Oma (to the NE) and some like the killer sexy marbling of toro from the variety from Amami Oshima (SW of Japan on an island). Other than that, bluefin from around the world also get shipped to Japan, even the farmed variety from Mediterranean, Spain, Italy, and varieties from the Southern Pacific (Indian Ocean). There is an experimental variety grown sustainably available in very limited quantities, but the yield is very small, some high end western restaurants also get dibs, but honestly it tastes nothing like the wild variety of the cream of the crop.

                        Just like Silverjay said, it is hard to top a piece of pristine raw bluefin tuna that has been handled well (and comparing that to other more popular types of cheaper tuna), and it is even harder to top to find a old timer knowledgeable sushi chef who can acquire and serve unique cuts of the bluefin that many people have not even heard of, like very very specific cuts of toro (or a section near the side fins)where the ratio/quantity is so small it yields a tiny block (or that block gets snapped up at the wholesaler by trusted regulars in Japan), and possibly even rarer than those kama toro/fatty cheek meat/collar cuts.

                        Due to its popularity, acquiring a whole one by overpaying has become a tool for a restaurant's publicity (even if selling it at a huge loss) and for keeping customers coming in through the door.

            2. If you've eaten at a decent amount of sushi places, I'm supposing you've had it.

              It has become such a namesake item, but interestingly enough it wasn't originally so sought after, or even used http://www.theatlantic.com/health/arc...

              1. Here is a good link on good fish choices with references to Blue Tuna:
                http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/h...

                1. As has been stated, there are a lot of factors that go into how Bluefin taste....Size, where it was caught, how it was caught, how it was handled after being caught, what part of the fish the meat came from and the knowledge of the chef.

                  Most of the high quality Bluefin is exported to Japan just like our best Prime Beef.

                  I would not even begin to compare Bluefin to Yellowfin. What I would say is that " #1" grade Yellow Fin is available from fine purveyors in the range of $12.00 - $20.00 Lb. and is very, very Good. My point is I would rather have a piece of the best grade Yellowfin than the lowest grade Bluefin which is what you might end up getting.