Yellowfin tuna has a mild, meaty flavor. It’s more flavorful than albacore, but leaner than bluefin. The meat is bright red when raw but turns brown to grayish-tan when cooked. The meat is firm and moist, with large flakes. Yellowfin tuna can be found fresh, frozen, or canned as light-meat tuna (often blended with skipjack tuna and a bit pinker than canned albacore). Yellowfin tuna is often served raw as sashimi and in sushi.
Yellowfin Tuna reach sexual maturity at a younger age (about three years) than most other tunas and grow quickly. They produce millions of eggs per spawning, and can live up to nine years.Yellowfin Tuna are found throughout the world’s tropical and sub-tropical oceans, with one population occurring in each of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and two in the Pacific. Abundance of Yellowfin Tuna varies among populations, but overall abundance is at a medium level. Globally longline vessels catch 15% of all tuna species including Yellowfin Tuna. Longline tuna fisheries catch large numbers of unwanted species or bycatch, including billfish, sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.
In the U.S. yellowfin is widely available as canned light tuna. It’s often called ahi when sold fresh and frozen, and maguro when prepared for sushi. Yellowfin is caught with troll, pole-and-line, longline and purse seine gear. There is little or no bycatch when yellowfin is caught with troll or pole-and-line gear. However, longlines result in large quantities of bycatch, including threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds. Since there are no international laws to reduce bycatch, longlines are contributing heavily to the long-term decline of some of these species. U.S. Atlantic and Pacific troll or pole-caught yellowfin is a “Best Choice.” Most longline-caught yellowfin is ranked “Avoid.” A notable exception is longline-caught yellowfin from the U.S. Atlantic or Hawaii, where strict bycatch regulations result in a “Good Alternative” ranking.
The bycatch associated with purse seining for yellowfin can also be considerable, especially when purse seines are set around natural floating objects or when “fish aggregating devices” (FADs) are used. Bycatch can include young tunas and other fishes and sharks. There is considerably less bycatch when FADs aren’t used – a method known as “unassociated purse seining.” Unfortunately, yellowfin caught this way is not kept separate from the less environmentally friendly caught tuna and consumers have no way of differentiating the two.