Tuna Wars pp 265-275 | Cite as

The Tuna Family

  • Steven Adolf


People eating canned tuna probably don’t realise that strictly speaking they are not eating tuna at all. Most canned tuna is skipjack tuna after all, and skipjack is a member of the Scombridae family, to which next to the real tuna’s as Atlantic Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) the mackerel and Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda) also belong [23]. So skipjack is the tuna family’s bastard cousin; the upstart who, because of its economic significance to the industrial fisheries, was welcomed warmly into tuna aristocracy. Besides being the most important ingredient for canned tuna, skipjack is also used in Japan for the smoked, dried and shaved katsuobushi, a key ingredient for fish soup and many other typically Japanese dishes [127]. The Americans know it, once canned, as ‘light-meat’ tuna [81]. Skipjack, that is found in tropical and subtropical waters, does not grow very big, to around 1.2 kg and 40 cm length at maturity or exceptionally 1 m in length. Horizontal stripes on its belly make it easily recognisable. Like the rest of its family, skipjack is a cosmopolitan migratory fish that moves around in shoals of thousands of fellow fish to hunt for food jointly. This makes it ideal for large-scale purse seine capture as well as for pole and line. In both cases floating rafts or FADs can be used, leading to large amounts of unsustainable bycatch. Skipjack, which can live up to a reported maximum of 12 years, had hitherto been considered a robust stock because of the speed with which they procreated. The fish is sexually mature within a year. They are sometimes called the cockroaches of the sea, although this comparison is seldom made in professional circles, presumably because of the negative connotations as far as hygiene and palatability are concerned (Fig. 29.1).


  1. 23.
  2. 127.
    Hamilton A, Lewis A, McCoy M et al (2011) Market and industry dynamics in the global tuna supply chain. FFA, HoniaraGoogle Scholar
  3. 81.
    Ellis R (2008) Tuna: a love story. Alfred A. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    Aqorau T (2010) Pacific countries might start to operate like OPEC. IslandBusiness, 12-1-2010, [online] <>. Accessed 23 July 2015
  5. 53.
    Brownjohn M (2014) PNA and the WCP RFMO Presentation Global Oceans Action Summit, Working Group 3, session 3 PNA-SIDS. The Hague 23rd May 2014Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Adolf S, Bush S, Vellema S (2016) Reinserting state agency in global value chains: the case of MSC certified skipjack tuna. Fish Res 182:79–87. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 132.
    Havice E (2013) Rights-based management in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean tuna fishery: economic and environmental change under the Vessel Day Scheme. Mar Policy 42:259–267. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 26.
  9. 103.
    Fonteneau A, Pallares P, Pianet R (2000) A worldwide review of purse seine fisheries on FADs. Peche thoniere et dispositifs de concentration de poissonsGoogle Scholar
  10. 72.
    Dagorn L, Holland K, Restrepo V, Moreno G (2012) Is it good or bad to fish with FADs? What are the real impacts of the use of drifting FADs on pelagic marine ecosystems? Fish Fish 14:391–415. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 71.
    Dagorn L, Holland K, Itano D (2006) Behavior of yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and bigeye (T. obesus) tuna in a network of fish aggregating devices (FADs). Mar Biol 151:595–606. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 45.
    Bonanno A, Constance D (1996) Caught in the net. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KSGoogle Scholar
  13. 24.
  14. 25.
  15. 193.
    PEW (2014) The story of Pacific Bluefin tuna. Pew Environment GroupGoogle Scholar
  16. 194.
    PEW (2016) New science puts decline of Pacific Bluefin at 97.4 percent. In: Accessed 19 Nov 2018
  17. 177.
  18. 56.
    CCSBT (2018) About Southern Bluefin Tuna | CCSBT Commission for the conservation of Southern Bluefin tuna. In: Accessed 20 Nov 2018
  19. 147.
    IUCN red list 2011 – in pictures. (2018) In: The Guardian. Accessed 19 Nov 2018
  20. 179.
    OECD (2012) Rebuilding fisheries. OECD, ParisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 197.
    Polacheck T, Davies C (2008) Considerations of implications of large unreported catches of Southern Bluefin tuna for assessments of tropical tunas, and the need for independent verification of catch and effort statistics. CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, HobartGoogle Scholar
  22. 211.
    Rubin A (2007) Rock the boat: the plight of the Southern Bluefin tuna. Michigan State University College of LawGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Adolf
    • 1
  1. 1.AmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations