Fishtory | In The Time Of Tuna

First of all, I have to say the announcer in this video is freakin awesome. This should be a motivational video for beleaguered fishermen. Sadly, Tuna fishing is a much different story these days. Tuna once thrived in the ocean.  The cost of overfishing can being devasting to a species and even a lifestyle. It’s a bit long, but you will be ready to bite nails in half after you hear this guy for 9 mins. Thanks to Scott Heitman for this incredible video find! After the video, you can read up on the long history of one of the most amazing fish in the sea.


Since the nineteenth century, and indeed since ancient times, tuna fishing has been carried out in many places in the world. These fisheries were local, and generally near coasts. As most species of tunas are highly migratory, these fisheries caught tunas only at certain points in their life cycle, and thus had to be seasonal. They included, in the Atlantic, purse seining for bluefin off Norway, trolling for albacore in the Bay of Biscay, trap fishing in the Straits of Gibraltar and along the North African coast, fishing for bigeye and skipjack near islands and artisanal fishing along the coasts of Africa. Also, fisheries for swordfish have existed for a long time in the northwestern Atlantic and in the Mediterranean.

In the Pacific, there were various artisanal fisheries near islands in tropical waters, troll fisheries for albacore and baitboat fisheries for yellowfin and skipjack off the west coast of the United States of America, baitboat fisheries for skipjack near Japan, and many other fisheries for various tunas along the coasts of Japan. Coastal fisheries using baitboats and small seine nets existed off South America. In the Indian Ocean, fisheries for skipjack existed off Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives, and southern bluefin tuna were the target of longline fishing off Australia.


As a result of increasing demand for tuna for canning, industrial fisheries started during the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1950s, the major fisheries consisted of Japanese longliners and baitboats in the Pacific and United States baitboats off California and along the coasts of Mexico, while other traditional fisheries continued. After the Second World War the Japanese tuna fishery was limited to areas near its coast until 1952, but thereafter the fishery, particularly the longline fishery, expanded its fishing area very rapidly, and in the late 1950s reached the Atlantic Ocean.

Also, in the late 1950s, some European baitboats, based in local ports, started fishing off the African coast.


Spanish and French baitboats and purse seiners started fishing for tunas off tropical West Africa, and were joined by Japanese baitboats. Also, Japanese longliners expanded their fishing area all over the world, still targeting mostly albacore and yellowfin for canning. In the middle of this decade, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China started large-scale longline fisheries, learning the techniques from Japan, for exporting tuna to the canning industry. At the end of the decade, the Japanese longline industry developed extremely cold storage systems, which established new frozen products for the sashimi market, and consequently started to change their target species from yellowfin and albacore to bluefin and bigeye tunas.

In the Pacific, the US baitboat fishery off Central and South America was almost completely replaced by purse seiners, which developed a new fishing method, called dolphin fishing. Schools of yellowfin tuna associated with dolphins, a phenomenon observed only in the eastern Pacific, were their major target, and speedboats were used to chase the tuna into the net, together with the dolphins.


The purse-seine fishery by European nations in the tropical eastern Atlantic developed quickly, targeting yellowfin and skipjack.

Although the purse-seine fishery in the tropical eastern Pacific also continued to develop, strict regulations aimed at reducing the incidental mortality of dolphins in the fishery in this area led to US vessels changing flags to Central and South American countries, and also some of their effort shifted the central western Pacific, where there is no dolphin fishing.

After the development of super-cold storage, the longline fishery gradually changed its target from yellowfin and albacore for canning to bigeye for sashimi. This shift was first seen among Japanese longliners only, but gradually expanded to the Korean and Taiwanese fleets. In order to catch adult bigeye, which live at much greater depths than yellowfin and albacore tunas, the hooks were set deeper and deeper (so-called “deep longlines”). This change in fishing strategy greatly affected the fishing areas and seasons, and the species compositions of catches, including by-catch species.

via History of Fishing for Tuna.


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