With approximately 266.22 million Americans eating tuna annually, it is no wonder that it’s the third most consumed fish in the US. “Tuna” is a general reference to one of many different species of tuna, from the cheap, canned variety to the most luxurious.
Fifteen tuna species form part of the Thunnini tribe, a subgroup of the Scombridae (mackerel) family. The Thunnini tribe is further divided into ‘true tunas,’ which includes the Bluefin and Yellowfin varieties, and the other minor tuna varieties, including Skipjack.
With a large variety of tuna to choose from, here are some things to consider.
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Different True Tuna Species
‘True tuna’ (genus: Thunnus) species include:
- Atlantic Bluefin
- Pacific Bluefin
- Southern Bluefin
Albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) or longfin tuna can grow to about 4 feet long and weigh almost 90 pounds. They have the most extended pectoral fins and the lightest white flesh of any tuna. The meat of an Albacore tuna is mild in flavor, and most people are familiar with this tuna as a canned variety.
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
Atlantic Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is one of the largest tuna species, with the highest recorded weight being 1,496 pounds. Fisheries favor this giant tuna since it offers much meat and is also preferred for sushi and sashimi dishes. Many consider it the ‘King of Tuna’ as it is a highly sought-after species.
Bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) is often mistaken for Yellowfin, despite its big eyes and more robust body. This tuna is a more affordable alternative to Bluefin tuna yet provides similar firm and tasty meat commonly used in sashimi. The only downside is having to restrain yourself from consuming too much, as Bigeye tuna contains high mercury levels.
Blackfin tuna (Thunnus atlanticus) is one of the smaller species of tuna. The Blackfin grows up to 3 feet and can weigh about 45 pounds. It is not a particularly sought-after tuna since it has a low commercial value, mainly because of its small size. It makes excellent bait for Marlins but can also be enjoyed raw in sushi.
Longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol) is known, confusingly, as Northern Bluefin tuna in Australia, even though it is not a Bluefin tuna. This tuna grows slower and outlives most other species of the same size but is quite vulnerable to overfishing. Longtail tuna is typically sold fresh, dried, or salted. It is prevalent in Japan since they use it in sashimi.
Pacific Bluefin Tuna
Pacific Bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) is mainly found in the northern Pacific Ocean. They are large, yet slightly smaller than the Atlantic Bluefin. They are known to be powerful swimmers to accommodate their migratory nature. As luxurious and sought-after as the Pacific Bluefin tuna is, many chefs have pledged to refrain from using it in premium sushi or sashimi dishes because of its vulnerability.
Southern Bluefin Tuna
Southern Bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) can be found in southern hemisphere waters and is especially prevalent in Japan. Its meat is rich in omega-3, vitamin B12, and selenium. Like its other Bluefin peers, this tuna is considered gourmet food. Consumers will pay top dollar for it, mainly offered as high-quality sashimi.
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is slightly smaller than the Bigeye or Bluefin, with bright yellow finlets and long dorsal and anal fins. This tuna is well-loved raw in places like Hawaii but can also be enjoyed grilled or lightly seared. Because Yellowfin tuna is a leaner meat, it also gets marketed as canned tuna or sold as steaks.
Black Skipjack Tuna
Black Skipjack tuna (Euthynnus lineatus) is smaller than its counterparts, reaching only 3 feet and weighing up to 26 pounds. They are very bony, producing very little meat, so you will probably not find them in your local fishmonger. Anglers use Black Skipjack tuna as bait instead.
Bullet tuna (Auxis rochei) is primarily a tropical fish that can be found worldwide. They tend to be thin and very small, with a maximum length of only 20 inches. Their size and abundance have made them a cheap bait option to attract giant tuna.
Frigate tuna (Auxis thazard) is another small tuna that only grows up to 25 inches with an approximate weight of 4 pounds. They are found globally yet are not fishermen’s preferred catch. Frigate tuna produces red meat that has a rather undesirable oily taste. That, along with their small size, makes them more popular as bait rather than consumption.
Little Tunny Tuna
Little Tunny tuna (Euthynnus alletteratus) is also known as ‘false Albacore’ and is the most abundant tuna in the Atlantic Ocean. This tuna has a more potent taste than other tuna that divides consumers – you either hate it or can’t get enough of it. Still, it is not commonly eaten and is used as bait for Marlins and Sharks.
Mackerel/ Kawakawa Tuna
Mackerel tuna (Euthynnus affinis) are known as incredible fighters for their size, like Little Tunny’s, challenging even the most experienced of anglers. Their firm meat is ideal to sell as frozen or canned. Some enjoy Mackerel tuna dried, salted, smoked, or even fresh.
Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) is known by many other names, like striped tuna, victor fish, or oceanic bonito. They offer tender meat with a strong flavor and high-fat content. Alongside Yellowfin, it is the most used type of tuna, making up 70% of all canned tuna in the US.
Slender tuna (Allothunnus fallai) is another tuna with an oilier taste than most. Due to the low demand, it thrives in its numbers. It might be part of canned tuna products when caught as a bycatch, although it’s pretty tasty when cooked.
Other Tuna Species
Other minor or ‘neritic’ tuna species include:
- Black Skipjack
- Little Tunny
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Types Of Tuna Are There?
Tuna fish belongs to the Thunnini tribe, a subgroup of the Scombridae (mackerel) family. This Thunnini tribe consists of 15 tuna species, all mentioned in this article.
What Are The Four Types Of Tuna?
There are 15 species of tuna. However, most of the market comprises four species:
- Skipjack (makes up more than half of the global tuna catch)
What Is The Best Eating Tuna?
Any one of the three Bluefin tuna species (i.e., Atlantic, Pacific, or Southern) is regarded as the best tuna. Their flesh is meatier, tastier, and has the right balance between protein and fat. For this reason, it is highly sought-after and, as a result, costly.
What Is The Rarest Type Of Tuna?
Based on Bluefin tuna’s popularity, with some catches selling for millions of dollars, their numbers have depleted over the last couple of decades. Bluefin tuna is thus not only a hot commodity for its quality but also because it has become so rare.
Tuna can be very cheap or extremely expensive, depending on your taste. Higher quality tuna is typically used in sushi and sashimi, thus eaten raw because of its superior flavor. Whereas more common tunas, like the Skipjack, are used in canned varieties.
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- BULK 24 PACK: Buy your tuna in bulk with the StarKist 24-Pack. These tuna cans are easy to store and great to have handy for when hunger strikes – whether you’re on the go, at the office or at home.
- SUSTAINABLE WILD TUNA – Wild Planet’s tuna is pole and line caught in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean or off coastal New Zealand, maintaining natural populations and preserving the ecosystem.
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- NO ADDED OIL, WATER OR FILLERS – We leave out the fillers so that each can of albacore tuna is filled with the fresh-from-the-sea flavor that you want.
- WHAT'S INSIDE: 5 ounces of solid white albacore tuna in water
- WHY YOU'LL LOVE IT: This tuna is great for a meal or snack. This tuna is certified dolphin safe.
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