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Tuna

An Introduction
People either love it or hate it and that it is the rare individual who does not have an opinion about tuna. We cook our tuna slowly, submerged in olive oil, in the Italian style, and adjust it our taste. One bakes it over coals in the Balinese fashion or one grills it to make a salad nicoise. One may even try steaming, baking and pan-frying the tuna; one can even mince it to make a tartar. Tuna's natural affinity is to be cooked until nearly dry and soaked in a sauce that provides both taste and moisture. Given its large flake, tuna is more durable than most fish, and it remains more intact. Its rich natural oil opens like river, capable, if not downright eager, to blend with a remoulade, or mayonnaise. Commercially canned and pouched food may be safely stored for several years as long as the container is not bulged.

Tuna is now one of the most important seafood products in global trade. But rising demand has left most tuna stocks either depleted or
fully exploited.  Because of its taste, texture and versatility, tuna is enjoyed around the world and served under many different names:
 
  • Dutch — Tonijn
  • French — Thon
  • German — Thunfisch
  • Greek — Tovoc
  • Italian — Tonno
  • Portuguese — Atum
  • Russian — Tyheli
  • Spanish — Atun
  • Swedish — Tonfish.
 

What is Tuna?
Tuna comprises of some discrete species lodging in the deep sea waters belonging to the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tunas are fast swimmers with their speed being clocked at 70km/h(45mph). Many varieties of tuna are warm-blooded.

Unlike most fish species which have white flesh, tunas have pink to dark red colored flesh. The red coloring comes from tuna muscle tissue's greater quantities of myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule. Owing to this tuna naturally has a stronger, more robust flavor than whitefish.

Depending on the variety, weights average from 10 pounds up to 600 pounds per fish.

Found in all oceans around the world with the exception of the polar seas, tuna inhabits the upper and middle layers of ocean water to a depth of 1,600 feet or more (500 meters), depending on size and species.

In recent years, tuna has become more than just a basic food item. Its high nutritional value has led to increased consumption and popularity, especially with the opening of sushi bars in major cities worldwide.
 
A Brief Historical Background
Tuna has been fished from the warm, temperate parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans since ancient times. People have been enjoying tuna as a food ever since time immemorial. Fresh tuna has been enjoyed by coastal populations throughout history. Smoked and pickled tuna was widely consumed since ancient times. In traditional Japanese and Taiwanese communities, tuna has formed a major part of their diet and subsistence for over 1000 years.

Since 1950s, Japan and Taiwan have been the biggest fresh and chilled tuna producers and consumers in the world, defeating traditional counterparts in Western Europe where tuna has been traded commercially from as early as the 18th century.

Globally, tuna consumption, catch and production has been a prominent industry in Spain, Germany and Italy, with Spain being the
third-biggest canned tuna producer in the world and German recording a history of tuna consumption since the 15th century. However, in the last 25 years, the United States has become the world's leading market for canned tuna production and consumption. Japan and the United States consume about 36 percent and 31 percent, respectively, of the world's catch. However, the global trend and market for tuna is evolving. Traditional monopolies are constantly challenged and new markets are fast emerging. We have new markets rising in the Middle East and China. With the advent of technology and better scientific knowledge of tuna stock, preservation, migration and breeding patterns, new alternative fishing grounds can also be studied and tapped. Better infrastructure and development plans, coupled with more efficient port management and operations, are needed in ports.
 

Etymological Background
The word 'tuna' dates back to 1880 in print and its origin is attributed to Spanish American derivation of the English counterpart, tunny. The word tunny apparently originated from the Latin Thunnus, the name of its scientific genus.

Commercial Tuna Varieties

Tuna is regarded as one of the world's most valuable commercial species. It is fished in over 70 countries worldwide, and marketed in fresh, frozen, or canned form. Depending on the variety, fresh tuna is available seasonally - generally beginning in late spring and continuing into early fall. Frozen tuna is available year-round and is sold in both steaks and fillets.

 
The most important commercial species include:
  • Albacore  -  A high-fat variety, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the albacore has the lightest flesh, white with a hint of pink, and is the only tuna that can be called white. Its mild flavor and prized white flesh make it the most expensive canned tuna.
  • Yellowfin -  Also called ahi, the yellowfin tuna is usually larger than albacore, reaching up to 300 pounds. Their flesh is pale pink and must be called "light", with a flavor slightly stronger than albacore.
  • Bluefin Among the largest tunas are the bluefin, which can weigh over 1,000 pounds. Young bluefins have a lighter flesh and are milder in flavor. As they grow into adulthood, their flesh turns dark red and their flavor becomes more pronounced. Bluefin tuna is used in sushi and sashimi and is not canned.
  • Skipjack - Similar in flesh to the yellowfin, skipjack can weigh up to 40 pounds but typically range from 6 to 8 pounds. The fish get their name because of their lively movement in the water, where they seem to skip along the surface. Also known as arctic bonito, oceanic bonito, watermelon and, in Hawaii, aku, Skipjack is the most commonly canned fish on the market today.
  • Bigeye - Known in Hawaii as ahi, bigeye tuna are similar in general appearance to yellowfin tuna and are the deepest ranging of all tuna species, with a range of greatest concentration at 150 to 250 fathoms. With its mild flavor and desirable fat content, the bigeye is often used in canned tuna.
Where Tuna Are Harvested
Although tuna is found in all major bodies of water except the polar seas, the majority of the tuna supply comes from the Pacific Ocean - which accounts for 2.3 million tons or about 66 percent of the total world catch. The rest of the commercial tuna sold around the world comes from the Indian Ocean (20.7 percent), the Atlantic Ocean (12.5 percent) and the Mediterranean and Black Seas (0.8 percent).

Health and Nutritional Aspect
Tuna is an affordable, great-tasting and versatile pantry staple with a wealth of health benefits. Preparing meals and snacks with canned or pouched tuna is a simple way to replace foods high in saturated and trans fats, and ensures one is getting the recommended 12 ounces of seafood per week.

Tuna is an excellent source of niacin, selenium, and protein. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6 and thiamin. In addition, it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.

However, tuna has more to offer than just great taste and nutrition. Tuna can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. The omega-3 fatty acids - found in abundance in fatty fish like tuna - can help lower the risk of heart disease, ease the pain of arthritis, reduce asthma complications, and is essential in the growth and development of young children.

The protein in tuna is of high quality - containing an abundance of essential amino acids, and is easily digestible for people of all ages. Lower in fat and saturated fat than beef, poultry or pork, canned tuna not only provides a rich source of lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, but also is low in cholesterol.

Potential Forex  Resource For India
Tuna is considered a potential export resource in India. We export tuna products to southeast and West Asia. The European Union, Japan and the U.S. have shown interest in importing the fish. Yellow-fin, big-eye and skipjack varieties of tuna are found in the Indian coastal waters, mostly for a period starting October. The Indian tuna is available in various value-added forms, such as fillets, steaks, loins and ‘sashmi’ grade.

Exploitation of tuna resources is one of the focus areas for the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) of India. Catching tuna needs expertise and special fishing gear. Fishing vessels have to be equipped with suitable equipment. With government assistance vessels have been converted into ‘monofilament long-lining system’ enabling them to catch tuna. The authority has hired the services of an expert from Australia to train Indian fishermen in tuna long-lining and onboard handling. Regional workshops on value-added products of tuna are being organized. MPEDA has also established a society called Netfish Network, with headquarters in Kochi, to carry the message of fish quality and environmental conservation to the grassroots level. With these measures, it expects a quantum jump in the exports of tuna products.
 
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